Not A Eulogy
Mon, 13th November 2020
Words: Calum Fleming
Flat 0/1: A Celebration, Not a Eulogy
Former assistant general manager and resident at Glasgow's Flat 0/1, Calum Fleming reflects on the grassroots spirits of the, now closed, venue. Calum reminisces on what the club meant to him and the wider community; through conversations with friends, staff and DJ's, in a piece that paints an incredibly personal picture of the venues enduring legacy.
While researching this piece I spoke to a number of people about their experiences of Flat 0/1. At the end of one of these conversations, Jenny Roberts - who worked in Flat 0/1 for a long number of years - summed up how I think we all felt about the venue, “Just try and get that it was this mad wee club, that anyone could come and be themselves, with no judgement.” This is one of the many personal insights I found to be a testament to the diversity of this club. This piece will cover some of these conversations, and attempt to pay tribute to the impossibly multifaceted nature of Flat 0/1’s legacy.
“Always free entry” turned into somewhat of an unofficial slogan for Flat 0/1 over the years. FREE ENTRY, 11-3. Aside from being solicitous of cash strapped students, it represented the ethos of the nightclub. Cheap, unpretentious and never too serious. The interior of the bar resembled a 70s flat; a cheap brown laminate bar top; garish orange cupboards and a matching orange bar front; filthy red curtains that covered shelves on the bar that constantly broke; an array of second hand sofas and soft furnishings that needed constant replacing, and an A4 whiteboard at the end of the bar with the Simpsons quote, “if the polis show up, we’re an all night pet shop”.
Through time, Flat 0/1 evolved. Starting as a quiet bar with full dining tables, a bed, a weekly quiz and occasional live gigs, it morphed into a hub for grassroots, local talent, offering opportunities for new nights in Glasgow’s - often daunting and impenetrable - music scene. “It was very organic” says Craig Murray - the General Manager from 2012 till 2018 and an integral force in forging the new path for the club, alongside door stewards Dav and Refu. “I was more the guy that facilitated the wishes of everyone else.”
‘We had a night called Dirty Basement but [were] still very much a bar. We realised that night was quite successful and then thought, ‘right, well instead of making it this quiet little bar... you want it to feel like an afters’”.
It was on Dav and Refu’s suggestion that the bookings made a more decisive shift towards electronic music. “We had a booker at the time and we basically told him, ‘go out and find as many people as you can, of varying styles of music, but basically the kind of music that falls in line with The Arches and Sub Club. Try and get the styles that they’re doing but we can do it our own, weird, obscure, free entry way. We only need 180 people in here, we’re going to get a crowd for it”.
'It didn’t start intentionally. It just made more sense sticking with the local guys... which helped build on this community'
The club scene in Glasgow has always been strong but after the closure of Soundhaus in 2012 (a small club in Anderston catering for heavy, underground techno) there was a displaced community. One of the nights that lost a venue when Soundhaus closed was Orderly Disorder (OD). “It was a little, old community that spread from the Soundhaus days... the OD crowd were older, so once Soundhaus shut down, there was this group of people that had all been partying for a long time, and [Flat 0/1] gave them somewhere to go and they could play whatever they wanted because no other club would touch it but we just thought ‘do it. What have we got to lose?’”
This feeling of community and nurturing local talent built over the years with new nights proving themselves and moving into more prime slots, in turn freeing up more and ending with a strong, diverse roster of residents. The dynamic nature of these bookings were what helped keep Flat 0/1 interesting and relevant over its near 7 year life span. “I remember” Craig continued, “I found an old flyer for one of the really early nights that had Animal Farm, These Boys Are Athletes, one of whom became part of Bicep, and Mungo’s Hi-Fi, on a free entry night, on a wet Wednesday on Bath Street!” Flat 0/1 had a great ability to act as a springboard for nights to grow and move into bigger venues. These small (at the time) bookings helped grow a niche crowd that, although small, wasn’t being fulfilled anywhere else and the freedom afforded by the free entry door policy lent a huge degree of creative scope and softened the risk of broad musical diversity.
After working his way up from a Party Liaison (also known, more officially but less humorously, as a PR) to Bar Manager, and ultimately up to General Manager, Bryce Powrie was, for a long time, synonymous with Flat 0/1 and was a hugely important figure in shaping the success of the club. “When I started, the whole live music scene was kinda tuckering out. Gigs weren’t as busy, people were more interested in dancing than scratching their beards, listening to bands playing music. So changing it and seeing it move more from a bar that didn’t have any live music and occasionally had a band in, to a place that only hosted DJs; was fucking nuts to see how popular it got and the community that came with that!”
Bryce took over as Bookings Manager once moving to Bar Manager and kept the ethos of small, local promoters. “It didn’t start intentionally. It just made more sense sticking with the local guys. Everyone loved it though, they brought along their pals which helped build on this community... could you call it a community centre? Yeah, kinda building on that.”
The community surrounding Flat 0/1 is a topic that always comes up, no matter who you speak to. It was a really important place for many reasons. “Other clubs you often see there’s very much a clientele and they all hold themselves in a very particular regard and they hold certain nights and certain DJs in a particular regard and who should be there and what you should be wearing but, in Flat 0/1, nobody cared.”
Laurie Duffy, an early member of the Flat 0/1 bar team noted, “I think that was what created that DIY feel. There was never much expectation, you were never going in expecting anything and you were never going in being expected of. I think that is what made Flat 0/1 so good, it was because no one gave a fuck… when they were there.” The inclusive environment of Flat 0/1 was one that allowed self expression, free from fear of judgement or derisiveness. “It’s literally where I spent day and night for the majority of my twenties!” Bryce commented. “It was a place I could see all my friends and it was a place everyone else could see all their friends. It was a big melting pot of passionate people. The success of the venue was based upon everyone that had their input.” Music and people blend together, merging into a collective experience and a community of openness and a shared passion.
The perimeters of what was permissible at Flat 0/1 were always very flexible. Phoebe Inglis-Holmes, who ran a weekly reggae and dub night at the club under the name Vixen Sound, reflected, “It was one of the only places in the city that young creatives could genuinely create the whole atmosphere and the decor that [Flat 0/1] allowed you to put up. If you had a vision you could do it, you could make it. [That’s] not to be sniffed at in a big city where big venues and high grade decoration are usually the name of the game.” The closure of the club also meant the end of her night More Fire. Although, for Phoebe, Flat 0/1 hadn’t provided a start in DJing, it did for a lot of people and, drawing on her experience of having put on nights in many clubs throughout the city, she spoke about what this loss means to the community, “For Glasgow’s nightlife, Flat 0/1 closing means that any young people just starting out and paving their way into DJing, where are you going to do that now? [The venue] was the breeding ground for so many amazing people in this city and now you can’t get that foot in the door.”
As for my own experience, I worked at Flat 0/1 and Lucky 7 for 3 years, from Bar staff to Assistant General Manager, and also had monthly residencies in both venues. This was a huge part of my life for a long time and the hours spent here were far more significant than I could have thought. The people I met, on both sides of the bar are, to this day, some of my closest friends. Whether or not the refractive lens of time and the knowledge that it’s gone are rose tinting my memory I’ll never know but looking back at the time I had working there it was amazing to have been able to be a part of it. We were getting paid to have fun. It was a community in the guise of a nightclub.
It’s funny, walking past the front door; the memory is so vivid. Flashes of light spill through the gaps in the blinds and onto the throngs of people on the pavement outside. Looking through the windows now, all remains is the torn wallpaper, inexorably lit by blinding white light from construction lamps. The last vestige of a once beloved institution.
Ryan Smith was the Assistant General Manager when the club shut. “In the lead up to it closing, Sean and I [the General Manager at the time] were saying ‘we’re on thin ice here’. It was nothing to do with us particularly but we knew we were on thin ice. We had a few close calls in the months leading up to it and I always felt ‘we’ll get out of this’ [but] we didn’t. It came as a surprise, I felt more worried about losing the place three months ago, during the summer but then, events out of our control... It was gutting, mate.”
A skip now sits on the road outside 162 Bath Street, filled with broken floorboards, entangled black cables and pieces of shattered porcelain. It’s difficult to look at, the gory viscera of something that meant so much to a community. Amongst the rubble are recognisable fragments; a set of light fittings that used to have hand painted deer on them until someone punched the glass of one, shattering it, leaving only an empty frame and a lonely partner; the dark brown laminate bar top that had shiny pieces of material in it that shimmered, even when the club was dark and polaroids that we had taken and stuck up on the end of the bar. These familiar pieces are a reminder of what’s been lost.
The closure of Flat 0/1 was sudden, but I would be naive to say it was unexpected. The nightclub below was a pretty unpleasant place. Trouble would often spill out, up the stairs and onto the street in front to the point that the police had to be called weekly. After a number of violent incidents, the council revoked their premises licence and, as Lucky 7 and Flat 0/1 were under the same licence despite being under different management, all three venues were forced to permanently close.
To dwell on the end is to do a disservice to what Flat 0/1 was; an inclusive and safe place with great music and a thriving community, where anyone could go and everyone was welcome. Flat 0/1 should not be mourned; it should be celebrated. Celebrated for what it represented and remembered by people that loved it.
Flat 0/1’s legacy will endure.