Georgina had been working at the O2 ABC nightclub for two years. Despite the long hours that come with working in one of Glasgow’s hottest venues, it was a great place to work. Georgina was across the road having a few drinks before her shift when the fire broke out. She ran outside: ‘No one believed the ABC could be on fire. It’s still unbelievable what happened and it’s affected so many of us’, Georgina told me. She stood watching for as long as she could, the fire reaching high into the Glasgow night sky.
‘Since the fire, I barely spend any time down Sauchiehall Street’.
The last time I was in Glasgow temperatures were hotter than ever. When I returned last month, the weather was a familiar freezing. I returned to Glasgow for the first time since moving to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is nice but I was homesick.
Sauchiehall Street is one of the longest streets in Glasgow, its Vena Amoris or Vein of Love running from the tips of the city centre straight into its heart. Since the early nineteenth century Sauchiehall Street has been populated with theatres, clubs, music venues, small family-owned businesses and restaurants. ‘Up Sauchie, doon Buckie and alang Argyle’ are the local references to three sister streets — Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street.
In Sauchiehall Street, more has changed than the weather. Last year a whole block was shut due to a devastating fire at the Victoria’s Nightclub. Then this past summer a second fire broke out at the Glasgow School of Arts. This fire spread over the rooftops of the famous O2 ABC, Campus nightclub and other buildings surrounding it. With another major area closed off and a number of businesses closing down after the fire, many doubted if the street will ever return to her former glory.
Walking up Sauchiehall Street, you’ll see that packed into a mile and a half is a range of pubs, bars and places to eat. There’s pub grub in Wetherspoons, Costa for a coffee or Taco Bell shipped straight from America. Glasgow has always been a popular migration spot, therefore, Sauchiehall Street has a range of Thai, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants as well.
Today, what will stand out are the marks left by the fires. The building where the first fire was has completely gone; the fire did enough damage to justify knocking it down and eating up a large chunk of the street. Further up, the once busy wide-open street has been split into two narrow pavements by fences with construction works in the centre. The sounds of cars and busy pedestrians have been replaced by deafening sounds of drilling and monster machinery. Walking up I spotted three cranes surrounding the Glasgow School of Art, O2 ABC and Campus nightclub, the roofs of which have completely collapsed in on themselves.
I stopped to look at the O2 ABC’s banner promoting a band who will never play. I remember the first time I used my older Brother’s ID to get into the ABC. Now it’s a gravestone as the ABC academy will never again open the same doors (at least not for a very long time) as it was announced that the building will be demolished.
As I walk further down I see an advert for a restaurant on Argyle Street urging walkers to visit their unrestricted and unburnt establishment. ‘So much for sisterhood’, I thought.
Late at night Sauchiehall Street begins to look normal again and is still the best night-out destinations in Glasgow. Despite the construction, taxis manage to get in and drop off buzzing and faithful young people, like parents dropping off their children at school. The only difference here is that they pick them up at 3 am, and all the children are drunk.
On a night out, Sauchiehall Street has whatever you need. If cocktails are your poison then Mango and Nicensleazy have a range for you to explore. If you just want to dance then the Garage has not one, not two, but three different dance floors. For me, I like the bar Firewater for one reason, ninety pence vodka cokes. Ah, music to a struggling student’s ears.
Although the fires have crippled Sauchiehall Street there is still plenty of life left, and returning makes me appreciate the street for what it was and still is; a part of Glasgow that symbolises its diversity, its people and its talent for having a great time no matter the circumstances. I learned, what many Glaswegians thought in the wake of the fires, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.