Sign of Ballroom Dancing Times

With the typical West-coast mix of Las Vegas kitsch and irreverence, the sign flashes in gaudy technicolour. Not just welcoming all to Glasgow's infamous market and dancehall, but also exposing a little of the fabric of Glasgow life.

Feature by Rosie Crerar | 16 Apr 2006

The iconic sign of the Barrowlands hovers brazenly over traders, bargain-hunters and gig-goers in the East End of Glasgow. With the typical West-coast mix of Las Vegas kitsch and irreverence, the sign flashes in gaudy technicolour. Not just welcoming all to Glasgow's infamous market and dancehall, but also exposing a little of the fabric of Glasgow life.
Glasgow architect Alan Pert has launched a campaign to see the sign granted listed status, putting it alongside more traditional buildings such as the Mackintosh School of Art and The Mitchell Library. His proposal has been met with support and interest by local businesses, councillors and Historic Scotland.

The Barrowland's current fa├žade has become a Glasgow landmark since its construction in 1985. But with the recent wave of redevelopment in the East End, some Barras lovers have grown concerned and want to secure its future. Pert was propelled on by the loss of previous landmarks like the Apollo music venue to hungry property developers.

"I would hate to think that such a world renowned landmark like the Barrowland's sign would be something that we would look back on with regret in 10 years time thinking it has been lost to developer sprawl without any cultural context," he states, "many people see the building and sign as an integral part of Glasgow's cultural heritage and it is recognised world-wide."

Tom Joyes, the Barras General Manager, denies claims that the building is at risk. Although he remains in the dark of the pros and cons of the bid to get the sign listed, he enthusiastically supports guaranteeing the sign remains there "for all time." The long-time manager describes the emblematic sign as "cheeky and brassy, both typical of Glasgow and the venue."

Opened on Christmas Eve 1934 by Barras matriarch Maggie McIver, the Barrowland Ballrooms were first intended as a dancehall for her market traders. Traders were soon joined by punters and then American Servicemen, who helped establish a wider name for the venue. At this time, the illuminated sign was of a man bent double over a barrow, later removed to reduce the threat of bombing during the war. But the ballrooms remained open, until disaster struck in 1958, first with the death of Maggie McIver, followed by a fire that razed the ballrooms to the ground. Undefeated, McIver's family set about rebuilding the ballrooms as a tribute to her and in 1960 it re-opened.

The Barras ballroom has since grown from the playground of market traders to a concert venue of international status, hosting bands and musicians as notable as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, The Smiths, to contemporary favourites Franz Ferdinand and The Streets. It is currently set on broadening this appeal, with the downstairs smaller venue, previously known as the Review Bar, now open as Barrowlands 2. This second venue, which can hold 350 people, is intent on showcasing new local talent and helping unsigned bands to enjoy the benefit of playing in such an established venue.

Music fans can look forward to bouncing on the floor of one of Scotland's most legendary venues for many years to come.


For further information check the sites www.glasgow-barrowland.com and www.nordarchitecture.com

http://www.glasgow-barrowland.com/ http://www.nordarchitecture.com/