A NEW campaign has been launched to make the famous neon façade of the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow’s east end a listed landmark.
The bright and distinctive Barrowland sign is “an iconic image of Scotland” say the campaigners, who are keen to secure its status, should the building ever be sold for development.
Architect Alan Pert is to meet Historic Scotland this week to begin discussions on how the Las Vegas-style sign could be given listed status, alongside such prestigious buildings as Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Scotland Street School and the Stirling Athenaeum.
Pert said: “We will submit a dossier about the history of the Barrowland building to Historic Scotland next week.
“The Barrowland is something so distinctive and unique that I think it should be preserved. The area is one of regeneration and development and I personally would always regret it if we didn’t try to secure it as a listed building and it was sold in the future and demolished.
“It is an instant symbol of Glasgow and although you could say that the sign is quite brash, I think it deserves to be recognised by Historic Scotland.”
Pert, of Glasgow architect Nord, has won support from city councillor Alex Mosson, the Glasgow Nightclub Forum and several concert promoters.
The venue’s general manager Tom Joyes has also backed plans for the proposal, calling the idea of the building becoming listed “fantastic”.
“We only became aware of the idea last week but I would be very supportive of the Barrowland being preserved,” he said. “The sign is a major landmark for Glasgow and of the Scottish music scene, and although we haven’t looked at what the up or downsides would be to the place getting listed status, I would be delighted if it could be preserved.”
Despite the bid to secure listed status, there are no plans for the venue to be put up for sale, even though there is intense interest in the east end of Glasgow as a development zone.
“We have acts booked for a long time to come,” Joyes said. “There is nothing at all to suggest that the Barrowland would change owner.”
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland confirmed that one of their inspectors is to meet Pert and will begin examining whether the Barrowland could be listed in the near future.
The venue was the crowning glory of the east end of Glasgow when it was opened as a dancehall for market traders by Maggie McIver on Christmas Eve 1934. After her death in 1958 the hall was razed in a massive fire but reopened in 1960, with the famous neon signage erected around 1982.
Aside from its iconic frontage, the Barrowland is also renowned for its high-voltage gigs, and is noted as one of the best venues in Europe. Bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Manic Street Preachers and Idlewild all count the venue among their favourite places to play, for its acoustic balance and capacity crowds. Among the many world-famous artists to have played there are REM, U2, Blur, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Sheryl Crow and Marilyn Manson.
Mark Baines, of the Glasgow School of Art’s architecture department, said that the idea of Historic Scotland granting listed status was not far-fetched.
“I know from personal involvement that a number of initiatives have been considered for that part of Glasgow, but the preservation of the Barrowland as a public building is vital.
“Its façade is an iconic Glasgow image, and although it is somewhat faded now it is still not really that bad. Some might say gaudy, others exciting, but as an institution it holds a huge amount of memories for the people of Glasgow.”
The Barrowland announced last week that it is to reopen a stage downstairs in the venue, with a capacity of 350, to showcase new bands and support rising music talent.
The owner of the Barrowland, Victor Cairns, grandson of the original owner, was unavailable for comment.