Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Arches Closure: Five Things Already Said

The announcement that The Arches has gone into administration has shocked artists and journalists. A letter to the Culture Minister calls it cultural vandalism, and even The Guardian has expressed outrage. There are a few conspiracy theories knocking about: it's worth noting them now, to see whether any of them emerge as true in the next few months.

G1 is to blame
G1 is an unpopular corporation which has had its fair share of controversy. Unlike The Arches, G1 did not invite disabled performer and playful wit Robert Softley to present his solo show in their venues: rather, they refused to let him into a club. It went to court, G1 got told off for discrimination. Then there was that business with the mirror in the women's bogs that allowed men to have a cheeky peek inside. 

There have been suggestions that G1 want to move in on The Arches, that money has changed hands already, and that G1's remarkable ability to fall in the shit and come up smelling of roses is a sharp contrast to the willingness of The Arches to address problems in their venue but still get shafted. 

The Police are to blame
The continued visits from Inspector Knacker to The Arches are part of a wider attitude within the force, which has been encouraged to get as many arrests as possible, in order to meet targets. The institution of a single copper to bind them all - Sir Stephen House has been boss of the unified Scottish Police Services since it the amalgamation of eight regional units in 2013 - has seen an emphasis on getting results.

If nicking suspects is the game, hanging about a nightclub is a good strategy. The Arches, which has instituted all kinds of policies to discourage drug use, is a soft target. 

There is also the rumour about Burley. The police raided this club night, and it is said that the crowd mistook a constable for a male stripper. 

The Drugs Laws are to blame
Back in the 1990s, the government did not like clubbers, because they kept having massive parties and shouting about how brilliant ecstasy is. A concerted effort got the rave scene out of the fields and into buildings, where they could drink alcohol instead of having a cheeky pill. Dance music was seen as counter-cultural and politically threatening.

I can't comment on the prevalence of drug use within Glasgow, but I am aware that alcohol users are a right pain in the arse. The emphasis on drug problems in the case against The Arches suggests that David Cameron's idea of 'no more passive tolerance' has found an echo in the strategies of the SPS.

A more nuanced attitude towards drug use, shifting away from criminalising users, would have not led to the closure.

The Business Plan is to blame
The great irony is that at a time when the government is always calling upon artists and arts organisations to look beyond subsidy and be more entrepreneurial, it is the Arches’ commercial business model – in which the club side of the business supported the art – that has resulted in this disaster. The Arches simply does not receive enough subsidy to keep supporting artists and presenting their work.
Lyn Gardner (The Guardian).

My italics, and no further comment.

Glasgow City Council are to blame
Plenty of conspiracies surround the GCC: there is a sense that they have failed to realise how important The Arches is, and allowed the issue of the licence to destroy a major venue in Glasgow's portfolio of great cultural locations.

The closure is a perfect storm of reasons. Even if one or two of these theories are tin-foil hat specials, The Arches seems to be at the centre of a series of debates - about the role of drugs, the powers of the police, the relationship between having a clear door policy and getting in trouble, the cultural landscape of Scotland et al. 

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