Closure: If The Arches is a public health risk then what’s T in the Park?

park-healthy_2974128kI’ll make this brief. T in the Park is shit. I’ve never been but I can say that with smug certainty. If it makes you feel any better I also like things that are shit such as the Sunday Mail and Eminem but I never let my nostalgia prevent me from seeing the true shitness in these things.

Now and again either one might pull something out the bag and I’ll hold onto a little hope that the tides of shit will soon recede; only to be washed away in a tsunami of soul-crushing shit.

The Arches wasn’t shit. The Arches was funky. It did have some shit elements at times but those were more to do with my own prejudice with regard to things like beard combs, The Skinny and Obey hats worn un-ironically.

All things I’m sure we can agree are necessary cultural evils. The Skinny perhaps less so – it just seems evil to me.

T in the Park IS shit. (I’m sorry but it’s true.) The Arches WASN’T shit.

So why is The Arches closed?

Well, its closed because, apparently, the drug culture there is a public health issue of great concern. Fair enough. So what about the fact T in the Park is an annual public health scare on a national scale?

Every year people are robbed, battered, stabbed, bottled and raped at T in the Park.

Every. Single. Year.

Maybe it’s because T is such a cultural mecca that it’s given a little wriggle room?

Then may I simply ask: How many people do you think would go to T if alcohol was prohibited?

I estimate the ticket sales would fall by at least 50 percent. The decrease in sales would have a knock on effect on the size of the festival and its ability to attract international artists. This would then affect the status of the festival which would probably make a considerable dent on that remaining 50 percent. #science

Which begs the question: What kind of cultural depth does a festival really have when its success is predicated solely on the fact everyone attending is going to get wasted?

People like to drink and that’s fine. But lets not pretend T is just about music. It’s viewed by its participants as a holiday where people go to have ‘blow-outs’ and engage in a little ‘carnage’.

Yes, because in Scotland we use the same adjectives to convey our nights out as we do to describe extinction-level-events.

The Arches, on the other hand, is a little different. When the lucrative club night wasn’t running – a club night that paid for all of the other events – then people visited to take part in a diverse range of worthwhile cultural pursuits. In Police Scotland speak these would be termed ‘Diversionary Activities’.

Diversionary in the sense they don’t predominately involve engaging in self-defeating behaviours that may harm oneself or the wider community. Activities such as drinking and drinking. The Arches was also one of Glasgow’s more accessible arts spaces in terms of social mobility – only last year I held my album listening party in the famous venue.

So, how are we going to tackle a drug problem by shutting down one of the last diversionary activities left in Glasgow City Centre? Increasingly, it seems we are expected simply to graze the consumer plains like bovine-human hybrids – re-fuelling on legally addictive stimulants whenever the paranoia that life is meaningless begins to creep in after another fleeting purchase.

I’m all for a bit of rampant indulgence. I’m not anti-capitalism. I just like my society balanced and if there’s an aggressive consumerist element to my life then I need a bit of cultural anarchy to blow off steam and process my experience. Where am I expected to do that now?

Pizza Hut?

Glasgow City Council – the local authority that closed The Arches – now has a bit of a kerfuffle on its hands because they are a lot closer to T in the Park than meets the eye.

The company who run T also run a whole calendar of lucrative, over-priced and dangerous events throughout the year right here in Glasgow. In fact this company has a monopoly on the entire thing.
Glasgow City Council is probably one of their most lucrative partners. Therefore, its time to look at the closure of The Arches through another lens.

Drug related crime and death in The Arches don’t get a look in when compared to the bio-psyco-social mayhem T in the Park is widely known for.

T in the Park is actually SO dangerous that you can dramatically reduce your chances of being robbed, battered, stabbed or raped simply by remaining in Glasgow City Centre – ON THE 12TH OF JULY!

Hashtage: thingsineverthoughtiwouldsayever

But all we ever get is a barrage of overwhelmingly positive press. Why? Because the media in Scotland all want – and desperately need – access to it because it makes everybody a shit load of money. Simple.

For this reason it is treated like some kind of cultural mecca while, ostensibly, The Arches is as disposable as a one-hour onslaught from Avril Lavinge.

So why did GCC have to go and make things so complicated?

First, they profit from their association with DF Concerts who pour money into council coffers every year by setting up shop in public spaces and then charging the people who live there extortionate amounts of money to set foot on their own property to watch Americans miming.

Then there’s the ice rink at Christmas – where you can expect to pay up to 40 quid to treat your family to a cramped 45-minute skate in 10-year-old ice-skates with blades as blunt as the tone of this article.

Or, you can try and wangle your way into Bellahouston Park at the end of the summer and maybe catch re-enactments of A Clockwork Orange beside a burger stall selling hot dogs straight out of 99p tins to hard-up Glasweigans for as much as £4.50.

This is big business folks and you are getting absolutely shafted. The portaloos over-runneth and I can smell a shit-load of shite.

I’m not a routine council basher. GCC are responsible for a lot more than many people realise and on the whole they do a pretty good job in terms of cultural and leisure facilities. I do not begrudge them creating revenue by collaborating with DF Concerts and I do not begrudge DF Concerts profits from their many events. I just want to see a bit of consistency if morality is being applied.

GCC recently learned the hard way about just how pervasive the drug problem in Scotland really is.

Last week one of its own vans was pulled over and found to have a £200,000 cargo of Class-A drugs on-board. How do they respond to this?

Is Gordon Matheson going to shut himself down?

By sheer and unrelated coincidence that’s almost exactly how much GCC will save over the next 3 years by closing The Arches.

Yes, GCC wisely invested £71,000-a-year into the venue to cover core costs.

The issue in all three cases is a deep-seated alcohol and drug problem in Scotland. This much we understand. The problem here is that The Arches has been held to account where others are barely admitting culpability.

I don’t actually think any venues should be punished and I don’t think T or GCC are any more responsible for the pervasive problem than The Arches. But in terms of scale, T in the Park is more than a minor disturbance in the Force when it comes to public health. The clue is in the name and GCC should apply the same rules to their lucrative business partners as they do to the small local venues currently going out of business. That’s all I’m saying.

Fuck all that blaming anyway. It helps nobody. Let’s be bold! We don’t need the council to protect us from ourselves. We realise that people will still die from drugs regardless of what happens and we also know that by closing down forums for new and subversive ideas we actually decrease our chances of cultivating the kind of creative thinking required to process and address these complex social issues.

Why not re-open The Arches and use it as a space to openly discuss the terrible drug-problems we face through works of art? That’s the kind of thing you would go to The Arches to see! We don’t really have many places left apart from night clubs that play all the same Americans we pay to mime at T. That’s not culture.

By closing The Arches you inadvertently rupture a vein that was predominately used to pump new ideas around our city. How can we ever hope to face our problems as a society – with any real flair or imagination – when we’re increasingly left with only the profit-driven wisdom of commercial pop musicians to inspire us in our increasingly isolated lives?

Comments (13)

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  1. Edwin Moore says:

    Was at one of the last Arches events – a really good WCS production of Midsummer Night’s Dream but the story of the Arches is a complex one. Have not seen a refutation of Kenneth Roy’s Scottish Review piece on the economics of its demise.

    Good anyway to see Loki doing a defence here, a defence rooted in reason rather than the partisan sloganising one normally hears when the topic of the Arches comes up.

    T in the Park, well, I too have never been and I too have heard some scary stories. A friend of mine did security there and would never do it it again. Bad enough battling drug-fuelled neds, but they were encouraged to let ‘minor’ incidents pass like spitting in faces. Towards the end of the day, there were cars driven at fences, skirmishes and assaults everywhere and all played down in the official summing up. Much changes in Scotland, but the way money talks stays the same

  2. GlennM says:

    I went to the first TitP and carried on going during the 90’s. Previously I’ve been a frequent festival goer since moving to England in 1988 so I was used to the big ones like Glastonbury and Reading, not to mention a load of raves and free festivals in the Midlands and the South West, but in terms of trouble at these festivals it was minimal. I think up until 98 the worst I saw was a couple of students trying to talk themselves out of a kicking by some bikers whose beers they’d knocked over in a pub at one Reading in around 92 or 93.

    Then I went to TitP in 98. Now at previous festivals I found the place to be fine, but upon its move from Strathclyde Park to Balado it seemed to attract more people coming just to get really, really drunk and perhaps see a band or two rather than see bands and get drunk as well. There was also no real community feeling that year in 98 and my hackles raised as I heard Orange Order songs being sung by a group of lads as we were entering the site on the first day, which was something I had to explain to mates I’d brought up with me from England. But 98 was the first year I saw an actual full on fight at a festival. Sure I’d seen some tasty things but never a proper fight.

    Next year I came back was 99 and again, I saw fights. Mates had stuff nicked from tents. All in all, it was a pretty shite year. I considered for a nanosecond returning in 2000 but decided wisely against it, though friends who’ve been since then have told me I made the right choice with the festival being full of people not just out to drink to a ridiculous level, but to cause trouble mainly in the campsites but also in the arena. I do think TitP have encouraged some of this for obvious reasons as it’s Tennant’s product being consumed in the arena especially. I read about the assaults, attacks and rapes that happen and I despair that people think that TitP is less of a problem than places like the Arches.

  3. C Rober says:

    I hink baith the corporate festival and The Arches are , were , ermpits.

    Who in their right mind wid want to sit in shit mudddy fields for a weekend , even the robbers and rapists gie it w wide berth , to the point that only the dregs of the dregs offer their criminal services.

    By the way ye forgot the health cost , all that clamidia , hpv and so on , so really there is mair health negatives at the T than at the erches – until they get rebranded as a strip club with a nae touch policy….. but who wid want tae touch a Glesga stripper anyway , they widnay need a policy.

    Anybidy find it strange on the lack of programming regarding Live Aid this week , the last time that a “festival” seen effing sunshine – even if ye hud tae watch a pontificating prxxk that has since then changed his tune on money for Africa?

    Drug policy doesnt work , prohibition doesnt work , protects the last legal drug which at last count is responsible for upwards of 70% of assaults , and 50 % of culp hom in Scotland. Its a bit like America banning a flag for murders.

    At least at places like the arches it was close to a hospital , and like american news it only shows the tragic death of middle class white female teenagers – to provoke the response it wants from the electorate for their masters.

    Now if the festivals were actually run by the councils , like history of old , for the financial benefit of only the Councils and teh Community , then I would probably change my view on them.

  4. Thor says:

    Ohhhhhhhhh Loki cokey cockey

  5. Amy Trout says:

    Well said!

  6. Julie says:

    Unfortunately the first para in this article renders the rest of it completely irrelevant. “It’s shit – I’ve never been but I can say that…” becaaaaaaause?! Experience it before you pass comment. I agree the decision to close the arches is an utterly ridiculous one from Glasgow liqueur licensing board, but the comparison to T in the Park is nonsense.

  7. Clydebuilt says:

    The BBC has promoted TitP since the late 90’s …….. If the BBC like something then it must be bad for Scotland.
    Stands to reason dunnit. (Not sarcasm)

  8. John Gourlay says:

    Never been to either place but I do not know why anyone would want to knock T in the Park because the Glasgow city council closed the Arches. I have nothing against drug culture as it is merely slightly different though less harmful than alcohol culture which is of course a drug. Prefer alcohol but that is my preference.

  9. Mavis Mince says:

    Sounds like somebody got the knock back from T Break.

  10. Archie MacPherson says:

    “But all we ever get is a barrage of overwhelmingly positive press. Why? Because the media in Scotland all want – and desperately need – access to it because it makes everybody a shit load of money.”

    No it doesn’t.
    If you saw any of the newspapers you’ll have seen that every single one scathed what went on. Some even did until 4 days after the festival ended! Apart from that, I liked your article but blaming the press for this one is unfair in my opinion – unless of course you’re just blaming the BBC . In which case then i’d agree.

  11. Sawny Bain says:

    Well Loki

    You may be right or wrong in your colourful assertions, but who would know or be persuaded by your unsupported opinion that this or that is ‘shit’, so frequently mentioned by you in place of reason?

    You really need to understand that even feeble anecdotal evidence has to be offered in order to persuade. You might want to read Bella Caledonia to see that this is the norm, and thus avoid ranting ineffectually.

    To take one mild example among so very, very many – what on earth is ”bio-psyco-social mayhem”? Who knows what you’re on about, even with your mis-spelling?

    There’s much in your flow which is dubious and horribly suspect, politically and culturally. Your article is passionate, sincere – and chaotic. It informs few.

    Your use of commercial language is quite depressing -”creating revenue”, ”consumerist element’. You blame people and bodies and then say ”Fuck all that blaming anyway.”. No, Loki, this won’t do. Splattered passion does not make an argument.

    Don’t get annoyed – get sorted.

  12. Gordon says:

    I generally agree with this article, but GCC do not have anything to do with titp as it’s in Perth and Kinross.

    That being said, the arches should not be closed.

  13. Fancyfeather1986 says:

    Mavis Mince
    2 days ago

    “Sounds like somebody got the knock back from T Break.”

    Waaaaaaaahahahahhaa! Belter!

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