Various DJs and promotors talk about the Art School and Vic Bar ahead of closure
Djs from Menergy, Divine! and Optimo remember the good times
This article is from 2011.
Glasgow’s clubbing landscape will change forever this month, when the Glasgow School of Art union and its Vic Bar close for extensive redevelopment. Things will never be the same again, its key people tell The List:
Lady Munter (Menergy): For me, the best nights in Glasgow were always there.
Andrew ‘Divine’ Symington (Divine!): The Vic has a unique atmosphere. It’s an art deco cafe, scuzzy and dingy but also relaxed and comfortable. I started a night called Swirl there in February 1990, which evolved into Divine!
Alan ‘Hushpuppy’ Miller (R-P-Z/Record Playerz): I started DJing at the Vic in 1994, when Andrew asked me to help out at Divine! I did that for 11 years, and ran Record Playerz for eight years and Abnormals Anonymous for two and a half.
Ben Coghill (Mixed Bizness): We replaced Freakmoves on Thursdays, a proper Glasgow institution, but the response was incredible and we haven’t looked back.
Twitch (Optimo): I first got to know Jonnie [Wilkes] there, because he ran My Machines upstairs. Then we held our Optimo Hogmanay Party at the art school from 1999 to 2006 and came back last year because we knew it would be the last.
AS: In the early 90s, Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks came up to the DJ box to tell me he’d never heard Neu! played in a club before. The open-minded music policy was pretty ground-breaking.
AM: I promoted the Scissor Sisters’ first two shows in Scotland there. When they played AA, which was a kind of queer performance art disco, they were top five in the charts.
Rob Morrison (entertainments convener, Glasgow School of Art): Most of the GSA buildings on the block have been deemed unfit for purpose and will be demolished, although the Vic’s external walls will remain. They say it’ll take about two or three years to complete the work, although that might be a bit optimistic.
AM: There’s something special about the Vic. It’s a charitable venue and not driven by commerce, so they’re supportive of nights that are truly creative rather than just money-makers. What will Glasgow miss most about it? The horrible toilets?
T: The toilets are perennially over-flowing. It’s cheap and nasty in the best possible way.
AM: The weird smell of marzipan when you go to wash your hands? No, there’s something in the fabric of that building. The chequered dancefloor, the grubbiness of it, when it’s gone people will realise they’ve lost a true outsider venue.
RM: The new venue will be a similar size, 800 capacity with a 500 capacity gig space upstairs. We’ve asked that they don’t do it up like a style bar.
AS: I honestly don’t think anywhere can take its place. It’s not really a students’ union, and it’s not really a ‘proper’ club either.
BC: People often forget it’s a students’ union. It’s a place you can feel at home and that’s down to everyone from the friendly door staff to the clientele.
RM: There’ll be a decamp venue nearby. It’ll be more a bar for Art School students offering food and occasional gigs, though. Following the final party we’ll be stripping the place and then allowing artists to do what they want in the space over the following weekend [18 & 19 Jun]. An open-access thing, where people can walk round the building and see installations, performances, things like that.
BC: We definitely won’t be doing a weekly Thursday elsewhere. We could never recapture the magic of the last few years, so we won’t even try.
LM: This last year’s been really poignant, with Optimo ending and now the art school closing. It’s been a real sea-change in Glasgow’s clubbing scene, and in many ways this feels like the final nail in the coffin for the old school.
T: We aim to carry on doing New Year parties, but as yet don’t know where. I think this will genuinely leave a gaping hole in Glasgow’s cultural life that won’t be easily filled. It’ll also be sad if Divine!, one of the longest running club nights on the planet, calls it a day.
AS: Our regulars want us to continue, so I’m looking into various options. Maybe bigger, maybe smaller, but the vibe has to be spot on. There would be nothing worse than re-locating and thinking, ‘Hmm, it’s not as good as the Vic …’