From ground-breaking theatre to huge name DJs and hot new bands, the Arches breaks down any traditional notions of what an arts venue should be.
In 1991, former Arches Artistic Director Andy Arnold realised the potential of the cavernous space underneath Glasgow’s Central Station and received the keys to the space from British Rail. Twenty one years on, the Arches has become one of Europe’s leading cultural venues, playing host to some of Britain’s biggest club nights and an eclectic range of gigs, as well as exciting new theatre and visual art exhibitions. People often drop in for lunch or a drink in the café bar and end up staying for the rest of the evening – catching a band, taking in some experimental theatre, or meeting up with friends before heading to the dancefloor.
The Arches is unique amongst both Scotland’s bars and clubs and the country’s arts venues because of the unique way our programme is funded. We’re a not-for-profit organisation: our clubbing, bar, café, live music and corporate hospitality revenue is reinvested in our arts programme (constituting 88% of our funding) – allowing us to carry on producing intelligent, ground-breaking productions and offering emergent artists a supportive platform for risk-taking. We like to think that we make the arts accessible to new, younger audiences, but we never dumb down to patronise them.
We set out to respond to changing cultural interests, particularly amongst young people, in Glasgow and throughout Scotland. The Arches is perfectly suited to explore this type of work because it houses such a diverse range of cultural activity. Now, in our twenty first year, we continue to break down entrenched notions of what an arts venue should be, making use of the cross-fertilisation between clubbing culture and visual art, live music and theatre audiences, while our café bar thrives as one of central Glasgow’s top cultural hubs, meeting places and hang-outs.
In 2008 the Arches appointed Jackie Wylie as its new Artistic Director. Jackie has fostered an increasing international outlook for the Arches whilst maintaining a keen awareness of the Arches’ role in providing audiences and artists with the confidence to explore experimental theatrical forms. She has overseen a significant expansion in the Arches’ key festivals, introducing new, daring physical and visual work to Glasgow audiences including groundbreaking performances from the T.E.A.M, Ann Liv Young and Akhe. She has also ensured the status of the venue as the key provider of support for emergent artists in Scotland and as such the national leader in unearthing innovation, bravery and risk-taking across all performance disciplines – including the introduction of Scratch and the Arches Brick Award.
The Arches patrons are Carl Cox and Liz Lochhead. Although theirs are not necessarily names that fit together, Cox and Lochhead were chosen because they represent the diversity of the Arches’ programming. Andy Arnold founded the venue as a theatre space in 1991, and discovered that putting on club nights was an excellent way to help support his artistic programme. This practice continues to this day, with clubbing revenue generating income for the theatre, visual art and live music programme in the building. In the unlikely pairing of Liz Lochhead and Carl Cox, the Arches has two figureheads who sum up the variety of events the venue is capable of.