How a former building site became SWG3 - Glasgow's coolest arts and culture venue

How a former building site became SWG3 – Glasgow’s coolest arts and culture venue

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If you asked someone 15 years ago where Eastvale Place was in Glasgow, then chances are you’d be meet with weird looks and shrugged shoulders.

Described previously as being ‘slap bang in the middle of nothing’ down Kelvinhaugh Road next to the railway line and the Clydeside Expressway, the transformation of the former Customs & Excise bonded warehouse into the city’s cultural art and music hotspot is nothing short of remarkable.

Here the sound of heavy industry and passing trains has been replaced by that of the chatter from the throngs of visitors to the myriad of cultural events or the boom of the most eclectic live music on the planet, in a space that has become the symbol of the city.

Director Andrew Fleming-Brown told Glasgow Live: “I remember taxi drivers didn't even know the street, it wasn't a particularly appealing part of town.

"The businesses here were mostly light mechanical so at the weekend it was a bit of a dead end.”

“It started from one just building with artist spaces and a wee community feel. And now we have the whole current site and are bringing retail spaces into the railway arches. It has happened very naturally and I think that has given us both longevity and integrity.”

Much to the benefit of the city, the risk in taking ownership of a building earmarked as a potential residential development is one that has fully paid off for Andrew, who also noted how its transformation allowed the space to maintain its industrial DNA.

“Glasgow is steeped in industrial history and we are very proud of it, and especially with us being down by the river we absolutely are out to retain that heritage. It's something you cant buy or replicate.

"I'm glad we agreed to do that with this building, rather than see it turn into a block of flats.”

The calendar of artistic exhibitions and concerts has not only saw the venue catch the attention of the media both at home and abroad, it has also allowed the city to compete better on a cultural level with cities such as Berlin and New York, with the Big Apple acting as a major inspiration for Andrew when first visualising what SWG3’s place would be within the wider community.

“I spent some time in New York on work experience years ago as a student and I've always had that at the back of my mind. Working at the multi arts venue where I did - it had a real energy and dynamic to it - it could just flip from this great art and exhibition space to an electronic music space.

And while events such as The National Whisky Festival, Pressure and Electric Frog have seen the space come into its own, its role as an arts and education centre to foster artistic and creative expression remains central to its ethos, according to Andrew.

“We've always seen ourselves as a place of education in the arts. The new Galvanizer's Yard space will allow us to realign the arts side of things with our existing, extensive music programme."

Having been 'next door' for 14 years, the acquisition of the yard has meant a massive expansion in size, reach and outlook for SWG3, one that wasn't originally part of the plan when they started operations out of the warehouse as a workspace and gallery for artists.

"We always thought that one day the Galvanizer's Yard would cease to be a working yard eventually and turned into a residential space.

"As our business continued to grow and the site didn't attract developers the value came down and we started looking at it ourselves. We managed to buy the site and secure it for the contribution of the arts."

The surrounding area of Finnieston has, in almost perfect tandem with the venue, shed its skin as a boring, nondescript thoroughfare and turned into one of the hippest areas of the whole country.

The complete change of the area has definitely rubbed off on SWG3, even if they are their own 'beast', as Andrew puts it.

"SWG3 has been in parallel with Finnieston, we have very much grown up with it. It's hopefully been to our benefit, it seems to attract a lot of good operators and I hope that continues. I remember when all it was was nothing more than a few shops and pubs."

Rather than standing still, there are continued plans of expansion to make the most of the yard space and to try and draw more visitors in to spend more of their heard earned cash, and time, at the site, Andrew added.

"When we bought the yard we inherited a woodland area with it, that we are looking to make us of as an urban green space with aspirations also to use it to grow herbs for a purpose built café/restaurant we are hoping to develop too.

"It's about getting folk to make use of the facility during the day to see exhibitions and hang out, not just on weekends and in the evenings."

And as for looking forward to 2018, past the upcoming Optimo 20 one day festival and the XX concerts coming very soon, there's talk of a major exhibition and perhaps even their very own festival, revealed Andrew.

"Just being able to host the Optimo and XX events are really exciting and important for us given their calibre.

"I'd like to see an International arts exhibition take place here at SWG3 and The Galvanizer's Yard in the future.

"We are already planning for April next year and Glasgow International.

"Being able to program our own festival across multiple disciplines is something we are interested in too."

This weekend sees the return of the Hypermarket to the Galvanizer's Yard. The Art car Boot Sale will run from 11am-10pm on Saturday, July 29 and from 11am-6pm on Sunday, July 30.

For more information on the Art Car Boot Sale and Glasgow's Hypermarket click here.


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