When The Arches closed in 2015 the place was notably close to many artists’ hearts. It wasn’t only the people of Glasgow who were distraught at the legendary venue’s closure; from DJs like Carl Cox to actor Robert Carlyle and playwright Kieran Hurley, many well-known names voiced their concern about the closure of one of Glasgow’s most iconic and internationally renowned locales.
Brickwork: A Biography of The Arches is the first book to emerge about this venue. It’s written by two previous staff members, David Bratchpiece, who worked within the venue for fifteen years, and former Arches’ press and publicity manager, Scabby Queen author Kirstin Innes.
You have written a book which is about the history of a Glasgow institution, The Arches. What inspired you both to write this?
KI: We both worked at The Arches, me for not a very long period – just for two years. David here was one of the longest-standing members of staff, I think. Did we work out that you’re the second-longest ever Arches staffer?
DB: I think it was the third longest. Podium finish.
KI: When The Arches closed, I wrote a blog that George Spender [publisher at Salamander Street] read. He contacted me and asked me to write this book. And then, around about the same time, we were having a Death Disco Zoom reunion, which was one of the clubs that we used to both work in and go to. In the breakout chat, I mentioned that I’d been asked to write it, and David was pretty gutted.
DB: Yeah, yeah. I had already been jotting down some ideas and thinking, maybe I’ll write a book about The Arches. When Kirstin said that, my first thought was that there was no point in me carrying on. But I did think Kirstin was the ideal person to do it. I messaged her the next day, saying, ‘Look, I’ve been writing. I’ve been jotting down some memories and stuff like that.’ What I was writing was more of a personal memoir of what The Arches meant to me. Eventually, Kirstin said, ‘Look, you want to jump in, and we’ll both do this?’ And before I had even finished reading the message, I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ And it was just a perfect way forward, wasn’t it?
KI: Yeah. We just got on really well when we worked together. And even though that was years ago, I was confident that we could work pretty well together on this as well.
Brickwork considers the venue since it was opened in 1991 by Andy Arnold. Is it a chronological journey through what the venue became?
KI: It’s a chronological journey from start to finish. Right from its rough and ready beginnings. People working around the clock for no money, as it was their passion.
DB: Yeah, and to it snowballing into the sort of cultural behemoth it became.
We did a lot of interviews – there’s over 60 contributors to the book. It’s really the people who made The Arches, telling the story in their own words. There’s very little editorialising from us in there.
You worked with indie publisher Salamander Street. Did they give you the full freedom of how you wanted to structure the story?
KI: Yep, absolutely. George and I had had some discussions, and I said, right from the start, that I thought it should be an oral history. The story that we’re telling in this book isn’t one person’s story to tell. There are different ways of telling all these different stories. There are so many more people’s stories that could have been included. Carl Cox is there, he’s a good example of the famous DJs they got. But then we’ve also got memories from the punters and the bar staff and everybody who kind of put the whole thing together. And not just the famous people, not just the artists; the sum of its parts.
DB: Carl Cox was great, because like he says himself, whenever he came to play there, it was considered an event, you had to be there. He’s very aligned with the place. He was a Patron of The Arches for years as well.
The title, Brickwork: was the intention to allude to the number of people that came into The Arches and played their part?
KI: To be honest, I think brickwork was a phrase that I used back in the day. My job was communications for the artists. I think brickwork was just the title that I’d use a couple of times, and that just sort of stuck. The bricks are important as well. Andy was given a brick by the Board as a leaving present.
And what has the industry’s response been like so far?
KI: It’s been overwhelmingly very positive. There was just something about that place and that time, the different factions of music or different fads that kind of come and go. There was something about that place, and the people who encountered it, and possibly something to do with the fact that most of the people who were encountering it were in their twenties. We were a very, very, young workforce when I worked there, apart from the directors, who were over 30. It’s got a huge place in people’s hearts. You know, I feel pleasantly confident that we’ve done it as much justice as we could.
DB: Yeah, I’d agree. One thing that excites me is the wide range of people who would go there all the time, from clubbers to some quite lofty art directors, who have been dying for something like this to come out.
KI: I love the cover, by Niall Walker. It very much encapsulates a sort of hands-in-the-air abandon which sums up The Arches.