In 2018 a fire broke out which ravaged the Glasgow School of Art, one of the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s world famous buildings. It was the second to damage the school in five years, but the most catastrophic. Millions of pounds have been either pledged or donated towards its restoration, even though little more than a shell remains standing.
Somewhat less lamented on the world stage. however, were the other buildings attacked by the fire. This included the ABC, a concert venue with a 144-year history. It served as a meticulous record of how popular entertainment changed across the span of three centuries.
Built in 1875, it was known as The Diorama and then The Panorama, giving patrons the theatrical experience of viewing large-scale painted canvasses depicting historical scenes.
More names followed: Hubner’s, then Hengler’s, then the Waldorf Palais. Many names and many attractions: it served as an ice skating rink, then a circus, then a dance hall. In 1896 it was the site of the city’s first public showing of what was called “Moving Pictures.”
In 1929 the building was converted into a cinema named The Regal by the Associated British Cinemas company, and remained one for seventy years. I remember being taken to see Jurassic Park, Super Mario Brothers, and Batman Forever there as a child. When the cinema closed in 1999 to be renovated yet again into a concert venue it, retained the name of the company it had been long associated with.
This rich history somehow seeped into the fabric of the walls and made the atmosphere special for every club night I attended, and every band I saw play there. Marvel at that spectacular disco ball!
The efforts to save the last shreds of the art school’s exterior have left the rest of the block unattended, hidden behind scaffolding for the past two years. Despite being protected as a historically significant building, the damage has been decided too extensive to repair. The steel beams supporting the roof have collapsed and the basement is reported to be flooded with sewage and riven with vermin. The last objections to its demolition were withdrawn this month, and soon it will be replaced with yet more cheap, soulless student flats. It was a cherished place, and it will be missed.