'Electric City' at The Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow
by Sharon Marsh and Caroline Scott
The Lighthouse is not a lighthouse per se, in that it is neither situated on a rocky coastal area or in possession of a large revolving light. Which is a damn shame, as either of those attributes would have made it much easier to find. Our complete inability to locate it was exacerbated by the page of directions downloaded from the internet (which did not at any point mention the words 'Mitchell' and 'Lane') and a complete absence of any signposts whatsoever on Buchanan Street (the signposts mysteriously re-appeared later when we didn't need them, always the way…). So, for anyone trying to find the Lighthouse on a rainy day in Glasgow, walk south down Buchanan Street and turn right at the BT shop. See? Easy…
Once inside the Lighthouse and out of the kind of surround-sound rain Glasgow specialises in, we were assaulted by the most friendly and enthusiastic bunch of people you could ever want to meet. The uncomplaining and smiling staff looked after our wet coats and umbrellas, apologised for having to charge us a whole £1 admission and ran off to get us spare posters when we mentioned we quite liked the artwork.
The Lighthouse hosts a wide selection of permanent and temporary exhibitions around the subject of design and if you've got some time to kill, it's worth checking them out. There's also a nice coffee shop, gift shop and a fantastic view, which would presumably be even better if the weather allowed a visibility range of more than 2 feet (once again, a large, revolving light would have been the answer).
All very nice, but we were on a mission. 'Electric City', which ran until the end of February, was part performance space, part club and part exhibition. Its focus was Scottish music, a subject very dear to our hearts and diminishing bank balances. We were not disappointed. For a start, the entire floor was covered in multi-coloured duct tape. Having spent many years frequenting the kind of music venues where the stages always appear to be entirely held together with leftover duct tape, this was a nice touch.
The exhibition was comprehensive and covered, well, everything. From the Bay City Rollers to Belle and Sebastian; from Simple Minds to the Soupdragons. There were some oversights (where was Owen Paul?? Poor lad!) but the patchy and esoteric nature of the displays actually worked very well, given that most of the material was gleaned from bedroom walls, where it had been lovingly pinned by generations of adoring fans.
A series of poster boards contained articles, pictures, studio reservations, tickets, and general gubbins. Randomly placed TVs played concert footage. It was like wandering into an extended version of your own bedroom. It's always amazing to discover that other people think it's worth holding on to the sort of random memorabilia you keep yourself.
We did a couple of circuits of the room (so we wouldn't miss anything) accompanied by squeals of delight at such oddities as: 'cut out and be Teenage Fanclub for a day' masks; the original artwork for Bandwagonesque; a gem of an interview with Aztec Camera (where we discovered the sleeve for Mattress of Wire was a picture of an Egyptian Coffin Queen cut out from an encyclopaedia….why is that important? It just is!); an adorable photo of a young Edwyn Collins; the outfits that members of Belle and Sebastian wore to collect their controversial Brit Award…we could go on. Everything that was important to us and, consequently, to other sad obsessive types like us, was there to gaze at in wonder.
Scotland has produced a phenomenal number of bands for such a small country. It must be something in the water. Sometime in 1980 a truly independent record label called Postcard records quietly changed the world. They even used to issue postcards with their records. These days, just about every record company on the planet sends out postcards informing you about new releases from your favourite bands. It's a good gimmick, but just remember where it started ok? The knowledge that it was possible to achieve something with no money and a lot of enthusiasm has stayed with the Scottish band population since those days and this exhibition was a testimony to that. Of course there were commercial, money making record company darlings represented too, but it was seeing the displays of the underrated yet hugely important bands such as The Pastels and The Delgados that made this exhibition important.
'Electric City' went out in a blaze of glory at the end of February with a club night hosted by Alan McGee's Poptones label and featuring a set by Teenage Fanclub. By all accounts, it was a great success and it highlights the real potential in this kind of multi-functional exhibition. 'Electric City' clearly evoked the feeling that music is all about the people who listen to it, love it and obsess over it. May the Scottish music scene continue to be as vibrant, individual and determined in the years to come.
Some time later we emerged blinking into the world, full of Scottish pride and hunted down some cans of irn bru. Another Scottish creation to be proud of.
Information on exhibitions at The Lighthouse can be found at www.thelighthouse.co.uk