Glasgow 2014: Arts venue plan for South Rotunda

Glasgow's South Rotunda is to become a pop-up arts venue next summer. Picture: Contributed
Glasgow's South Rotunda is to become a pop-up arts venue next summer. Picture: Contributed
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A DERELICT landmark on Glasgow’s waterfront, originally built to allow pedestrians, horses and carts to travel under the river in the late 19th century, will be turned into a vast “pop-up” arts venue for the Commonwealth Games next summer.

The National Theatre of Scotland has unveiled plans to take over the South Rotunda building, which has been closed for almost all of the last 33 years, for one of its most ambitious projects, partly inspired by the city’s industrial heritage.

The dome-shaped building, one of two built on Clydeside in the 1890s, will host a seven-day festival featuring everything from a vast “puppet labyrinth”, visual art works, live music performance and drama created by performers drawn from every corner of the Commonwealth.

The festival - which will coincide with the main programme of sporting events across the city - will be the culmination of an eight-month project, dubbed The Tin Forest and inspired by the children’s book of the same name.

Four historic industrial communities across Glasgow, including Springburn, Govan, the east-end and the south-west, will work with a team of artists to create a large-scale event in each area next June, recalling their ship, railway, steel and aircraft building heritage.

Elsewhere in the city, a specially-commissioned international performing arts company will stage shows in public spaces, including streets, bridges and parks, as well as public transport, while 10 theatre companies from around the Commonwealth will be involved in the week-long festival at the South Rotunda.

The building, which was reopened briefly for the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 but has been closed off to the public ever since, used to be equipped with hydraulic lifts to help transport people, horses and carts, and then motor vehicles.

The two rotundas, built to cover 24-metre mine shafts, were closed to the public in 1980, although the north one now operates as a restaurant.

The Tin Forest project, which NTS is working on with Scottish Youth Theatre, is expected to be one of the centrepiece cultural projects in Glasgow next summer. Every performed involved is expected to take part in a gala opening event on 22 July, the day before the Commonwealth Games opens.

Laurie Sansom, artist director of NTS, said: “The Tin Forest is a large scale participatory arts project, a brilliant entertainment experience and a destination for Scottish and international audiences during July of next year.

“The project is also a celebration of Glasgow’s industrial past, its creative future and its place in the world. Next year is going to be remarkable for the people of Scotland and we are thrilled to be embarking on one of our most ambitious projects to date to mark this moment in time.”

Graham McLaren, the company’s associate director, said: “I’ve imagined making a show in Glasgow’s South Rotunda since I was a boy. I can think of no place better for us to remember where Glasgow has been and to dream of where we are going.”

Tickets for events in The Tin Forest programme are due to go on sale in the spring.