New re­hearsal spa­ces are a mea­sure of cul­tural suc­cess

The Herald - Arts - - OPINION - KEITH BRUCE

IT IS a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged that a mu­sic stu­dent study­ing at one of the UK’s con­ser­va­toires must be in want of a re­hearsal room. The ad­vent of com­put­er­i­sa­tion of fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment has changed the way that the al­lo­ca­tion of space for in­stru­men­tal and singing prac­tice hap­pens, but it is still usu­ally the case that there is more de­mand for rooms that meet the acous­tic re­quire­ments of our young mu­si­cians than the sup­ply can meet.

There is a popular bar near the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic in Lon­don that is prop­erly called The Queen’s Arms but known by all mu­si­cians as “The Nines”, sup­pos­edly be­cause there are 98 re­hearsal rooms at the col­lege and it is re­garded as the 99th when they are all taken.

With the com­ple­tion of its Cre­ative Cam­pus project, shown off to friends and bene­fac­tors this week, the Royal Con­ser­va­toire of Scot­land in Glas­gow can boast be­spoke fa­cil­i­ties only a small num­ber fewer than that.

Trans­form­ing un­used space, in­clud­ing an ob­so­lete tele­vi­sion stu­dio, into two floors of workspaces, the Ren­frew Street build­ing now has a fur­ther 27 acous­ti­cally sep­a­rated air-con­di­tioned rooms for in­di­vid­ual prac­tice and one-toone teach­ing and two larger re­hearsal rooms of use to the­atre and dance stu­dents as well as mu­si­cians, in­creas­ing pro­vi­sion by 50%.

Im­pres­sively, the £2m project was funded by dona­tions from friends of the in­sti­tu­tion and the sup­port of trusts and foun­da­tions. Bright and airy, the new spa­ces were al­ready be­ing well used when the bene­fac­tors were be­ing shown round, and I’m cer­tain not just for their ben­e­fit. The prinic­i­pal, Pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Sharkey, re­splen­dent in trews in the bright tar­tan com­mis­sioned to cel­e­brate the con­ser­va­toire’s 170th an­niver­sary, sees the com­ple­tion of this project as the start of the trans­for­ma­tion of the build­ing, with a whole­sale re­vi­sion of the frontage on his agenda over the next five years. It is a vi­sion that he is hop­ing his cul­tural neigh­bours on Ren­frew Street will hap­pily buy into.

Only a short step away, the con­ser­va­toire’s Wal­lace Stu­dios re­hearsal spa­ces and work­shops have a new neigh­bour in the Na­tional The­atre of Scot­land’s Rockvilla home by the Forth and Clyde canal. The com­pany is re­fer­ring to its new home as an “en­gine room” for the­atre, ever-care­ful to stress that the “the­atre with­out walls” is in no need of a home as far as the dra­maat­tend­ing pub­lic is con­cerned. Opened by Cul­ture Sec­re­tary Fiona Hys­lop at the start of the week, Rockvilla is also about pro­vid­ing re­hearsal space, with three vast rooms, as well as space for tech­ni­cal equip­ment and cos­tume stor­age, a wardrobe work­shop and an open plan of­fice for the ad­min and man­age­ment staff. It is a place where the­atre pro­duc­tions – and not just those of the NTS – will be made, just as the new RCS fa­cil­i­ties are mak­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of per­form­ers.

Speak­ing at the open­ing of Rockvilla, coun­cil­lor Ge­orge Red­mond, chair of the Glas­gow Canal Re­gen­er­a­tion Part­ner­ship, made the mar­itime link be­tween the cre­ative in­dus­tries now based there and the heavy in­dus­try her­itage of the city by as­sert­ing that the for­mer em­ploy more peo­ple than ship­build­ing on the Clyde ever did.

It was an ear-catch­ing claim – and one that fuzzy def­i­ni­tions of terms like “cre­ative in­dus­tries” and “Glas­gow” make very hard to check – but its pre­ci­sion is less im­por­tant than the broader truth that these two en­tirely func­tional new fa­cil­i­ties in­di­cate the con­tin­u­ing growth of an im­por­tant part of the eco­nomic and so­cial life of Scot­land to set against gloomier news from sec­tors, like bank­ing, that we once as­sumed were as safe as houses.

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