||This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (December 2007)|
Barrowland Ballroom by day
|Location||244 Gallowgate, Glasgow, Scotland|
|Genre(s)||Rock, Pop, Dance, Folk, Irish|
|Opened||1934 (rebuilt 1960)|
History of Barrowland Ballroom
The original building opened in 1934 in a mercantile area east of Glasgow's city centre. The "Barras" street market (more properly Glasgow Barrowland market), after which the area and the ballroom are named, continues until the present day. The Barrowland building includes large street-level halls used for the weekend markets, with a sizeable weatherproof hall above. The front of the building is decorated with a distinctive animated neon sign.
The Ballroom was the leading dancehall in Scotland from its inception. The building was largely destroyed by fire in 1958, leading to a complete rebuild. The rebuilt ballroom opened on Christmas Eve 1960.
Latterly, with the decline of dancehall and the rise of rock/pop performance, the Ballroom has become a major concert venue. Known for its excellent acoustics (a design imperative for the unamplified orchestras which formerly graced its stage), as well as its sprung dance floor, the Barrowlands has become a particular favourite of many noted rock/pop acts. Although its modest capacity (around 2,100 people) is small compared with several other Scottish venues (the SECC, Ingliston, and various stadia) the Barrowlands punches above its weight in attracting top-name performers, and was recently voted the best music venue in the UK in a poll of British bands, and in another survey amongst bands, was voted second best venue in the world. Simple Minds filmed the video for their 1983 hit single, "Waterfront", at Barrowlands and in doing so reintroduced the venue to the UK touring circuit. Oasis, U2, The Stranglers, The Clash, Big Country and Marillion were a number of the acts to play the hall.
Between 1968 and 1969, three young women, Patricia Docker, Jemima McDonald and Helen Puttock were found brutally murdered after nights at the Barrowland. All three murders were attributed to a man dubbed "Bible John" by police after he was heard referring to the Old Testament to one of his victims. Similarities between the murders led police to believe that they were the work of the same man. All three women were charmed at the Barrowland Ballroom; all were escorted home and were raped and strangled within yards of their doorstep. All three women were menstruating and their handbags were stolen. A massive investigation failed to find Bible John, and the murders remain unsolved. On the night of the murder of Helen Puttock, Puttock's sister Jeannie Langford was with her and she spoke to her sister's suspected killer. Jeannie described Bible John as: "25-35 years old, reddish/fair hair, wore a blue suit and matching trousers with white shirt. Spoke very politely and was very religious". In 2007 following the murder of Angelica Kluk, speculation arose that serial killer Peter Tobin was Bible John. There are similarities between both individuals' modus operandi. Tobin frequented the Barrowland regularly and moved to Brighton in late 1969 when the killings ended.
Barrowlands has also been listed by many major artists as one of the best small gig venues in the world. Metallica said that the venue, because of its size and nature, made it the best gig they had ever played after their performance there in 1996. In her song Barrowland Ballroom, Amy Macdonald sings that “nothing beats the feeling of the high Barrowland ceiling when a band begins to play”. Of note; Alice in Chains' Live album was predominantly recorded at the Barrowland Ballroom.
Northern Irish Punk Legends Stiff Little Fingers have played at the Barras for over 20 consecutive years on the 17th of every March and it has become the gig of the band's tours. They returned for year 21 in 2012 and, despite almost leaving the stage on one or two occasions because of drinks thrown to/at the stage (a common trait of Scottish rock and punk crowds, ironically showing they are enjoying themselves and not, as one may initially think, that they are upset with the performance).
The Barrowlands 2
The Barrowlands 2 is a part of the Barrowlands ballroom and is used both as a bar when larger shows are playing in the main hall and also as a venue itself to host smaller gigs. While it occasionally plays host to smaller or acoustic gigs from more established acts, its usual function is to give small bands local to Glasgow a shot at getting their music heard by people all over Scotland. The promoters also host an event showcasing unsigned local talent in the main ballroom every year, selecting the best of the acts from the year and giving them a chance to play on the "big stage".
- Official site
- Photographs of the Barras
- DANCING AT BARROWLANDS (c.1961) (archive film from the National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE)