I fully intended to write a reflection of my Hoolet experience up here in the ‘oceans of free time’ I would have when the show closed at the Traverse. Then I was catapulted into wedding prep, wedding, honeymoon and general joy. We had no tech at all on honeymoon, as a wonderful detox. When I got back to the city on Wednesday, almost the first tweet I read was this press release about The Arches going into administration:
— The Arches, Glasgow (@ArchesGlasgow) June 10, 2015
Stunned. Everyone I have spoken to thought that this whole problem would blow over. I thought that Police Scotland were flexing their muscles to show the ‘concerned, hardworking public’ that they were Serious About Drugs. I thought that the City Council would give the Arches a showy slap on the knuckles, and then let them get on with supporting the artistic endeavours of a whole community of artists, not from ‘the taxpayer pocket’, but from people having parties. Let’s just stop and think about that. The Arches were providing 50% of the income they needed from people having a good time, and not from ‘could-have-trained-18-nurses’ taxes. It’s like finding out that your laptop is run on kitten dreams.
After the shock had passed – actually, scrap that, I am still shocked. After a number of hours had passed – actually, can’t even have been that long, this thing has been so ridiculously rushed. After a number of minutes passed, I realised that I would have to get my set from Hoolet out of the space, or it would fall under the sway of The Administrators. Not only are there precious, personal possessions in there (I used childhood books in the show), but that set is a physical manifestation of the four months of work that the Arches and I put into the show. They paid for a wonderful designer, and a prop maker, and a Wood Man to make it for me. They gave me the wonderful stage manager/everything expert, Sarah Wilson, to source those props, and type those hunners of cards, and make sure everything was in the right place at the right time. The Arches tech, Eleni, smiled and worked the lights and sound to make it all look great. They organised for Conner to come and shadow the show for his Theatre Studies course, and he read from those cards over and over to help me do lines, and to help Sarah find the weird, decopatch cat that we loved maybe a little too much. There’s books in there I bought on the research trip to Holland that Jill, my amazing Arches producer, organised for me to the Nth degree. And on and on.
I want those things. I also want the physical stuff I need to make the show again. It’s about an important social, personal and political issue. I want to share the discussion. The Arches wanted to help me. That was part of the award that the show was given – a swanky promoter’s pack to advertise it to shows, advice, support, maybe even organising a tour itself. Now: none of that. I’ll have to start from scratch approaching people who have not worked with me before. The nature of this award is that it is for people who don’t currently have lots of great connections, who need a footie up. I will have to approach people who didn’t pour themselves into making the first sharing of the show, who made it wonderful for me and stimulating for audiences.
Well, the Arches staff are not doing nothing. Several different staff members have volunteered their time to help me get the stuff out before the weekend deadline. Jill, who always went above and beyond, is doing loads of shifting and organising, but so are some staff who I barely knew. They believe in the art. They believe in artists. They want to help, more than they want go home and nurse their wounds from this traumatic time, and the sudden loss of their jobs. I put the call out on Facebook for help, and staff, respected artists, strangers all jumped to help. All I can say is, see the power of our love? See our power?
This is a very personal post, about part of my personal loss in the loss of this wonderful venue. But this is a tiny drop in the massive loss to Scotland’s arts. When people used to ask me why I lived in Glasgow – rather than through in the East where I grew up, and where my heart probably is – I always just said, ‘The Arches’. That is true for so many. I can enumerate my difficulties I’ve had in panicked texts/messages/phone calls/Facebook posts last night, but it is impossible to count the loss of a future seeing great international work, of being able to do experimental sharings at Scratch nights (where Hoolet began), of rehearsal space, of advice and support, of the Platform 18 award – of which there is absolutely no equivalent for early career artists in Scotland. We can’t count that loss for the community, and from the rest of the world. We can also not count how many people didn’t get high because the Arches closed down – but I bet Police Scotland would like to say you can.
I am reliably informed that Ezra Pound once wrote a letter to his friends, appealing for money for TS Eliot, who was still at bank clerk at the point. Eliot was too tired when he got in from work to write, and Pound was haunted by the image of the void in the future that Eliot’s unwritten poems would leave.
If we don’t work on this, there will be a void in our culture where the work that should have been born at the Arches – in rehearsal rooms, Scratch nights, graduate festivals, chats in the cafe – won’t exist. The arches of The Arches are archs of air under the bustle of the busiest station in the country. The void in our culture will be bigger than they are.