Small music clubs aren’t just incubators for bands – they play a vital role in a healthy urban ecosystem. What will happen if they all get turned into flats?
Many believe the police had it in for the Arches for a long time. Named after the warren of arches it occupied under Glasgow’s Central Station, the venue – which opened during Glasgow’s European city of culture year in 1990 – had hosted Daft Punk’s first UK tour in 1997, the still-talked-about Scottish debut of 2manyDJs, and icons of Scottish indie music, including the Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins and Belle and Sebastian.
In early 2014 17-year-old Regane MacColl from Clydebank died at a club night in the venue. There was little argument that the club’s policies and procedures should be reviewed, but what was asked of them was a stranglehold: more security; more searches; reporting of the smallest drug finds; an astonishingly unworkable request to create “periods of calm” in which they stop the music and put the lights up.
“There was literally a line of yellow-jacketed policemen on both sides of the road,” remembers Arches music marketer Bram E Gieben of one night during the venue’s final days. “Hundreds of people waited for an hour and a half to be searched going in.”
Aside from the “periods of calm”, the Arches complied dutifully with the new demands. Eventually the collated data of those drug finds was used to revoke the venue’s late licence, effectively closing not just the concerts and club nights, but the highly regarded live arts programme as well as a new theatre arm, both of which relied on the music for most of their income.
The Arches isn’t alone: the Roadhouse in Manchester, the Point and the Barfly in Cardiff, the Picture House in Edinburgh, the Astoria, the Buffalo Bar, Madame Jojo’s and the Luminaire in London – all mid-sized venues that have gone, victims of tough licensing laws, unwelcoming neighbours, aggressive development and an increase in property values.[…]