Thursday, 11 June 2015

Arch Angelism

It would be easier to slip into conspiracy thinking than to try to work out how The Arches ended up getting shut down. The conspiracies are knocking about - a vendetta by the police, G1 passing brown envelopes to the Council - but none of this helps. If the council are corrupt, if the police decided that they didn't like the kind of person who went clubbing/made Live Art under Glasgow Central, there is little that can be done, other than feeling even more alienated in a world of capital and back-room dealings.

The announcement that the Scottish Parliament intends to act is hardly encouraging: it was only yesterday that Patrick Harvey was asking his fellow Glasgow MSP why he was the singular voice shouting on behalf of the venue. And the emphasis on The Arches as an arts venue and not a club suggests that the division between clubbers and artists is going to be the path along which the space returns to existence.

The debate in Holyrood revealed a concern for the people who are losing their jobs - which is very important - but called upon the very people who have precipitated the closure (the police, Glasgow City Council) to get around a table and sort it all out. Like the petition aiming to reverse the original decision to remove the late licence, this offers a slim hope that an organisation which has already made a decision might be persuaded to change.

The Arches was a victim: of an attitude towards drug use that stresses criminality over health-care, and a council that hasn't yet seen the connection between an ecosystem of venues and Glasgow's viability as a home of culture. But as an isolated event within a continuum of policies, approaches and conflicts, it is going to be difficult to work out a resolution without discovering a new paradigm.

At the same time, it is important to remember what the fight is about: ultimately, is is a battle to ensure that a business remains open. The business has a model that is about more than just the money - although it is about making cash - and this kind of business is rare in today's post-consumer (or whatever it is called) society. 

Its philanthropic concerns - giving loot to artists - might not be on the level of those Victorians who built housing estates for their workers, or swimming pools (Govanhill Baths, anyone), but it is still a rare example of a capitalist enterprise that thinks beyond the bottom line.

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