Review by Paul Kerr, Glasgow: five stars
Langside Hill church, situated beside the Battlefield Monument in Glasgow's South Side is a fine example of neo-classical design in the style of Greek Thompson. Derelict since the late 1970s it was renovated and opened as a bar come restaurant in the nineties. I was disappointed on my first visit back then to find that this imposing pile had undergone a sort of reverse TARDIS transformation with the bar low ceilinged and dark with no hint whatsoever of the shell encasing it. I believe there were plans to open the upper floor as a night club but these came to naught.
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News that the Southside Fringe Festival was to include an art show on the previously hidden upper floor of the building was a tremendous invitation to see what had become of the rest of the building and having been there all I can say is that it's a shame it's been empty for so long and to applaud the festival organisers and curator Peter Gillies for finding such a handsome space. The original church was a shell following a fire and was rebuilt inside much in the Grand Designs manner. Access to the upper floor is via two curved stairwells to either side of the main entrance. Once inside the space is immense. While the stripped original stonework walls reek of antiquity, high overhead are the bare roof trusses from the renovation. The result is akin to a hair shirt cathedral, no embellishment, merely a vaulting space to the heavens.
Incredibly, Gillies came across the space by accident after seeing a picture of a craft fair held here some years ago. A meeting with the owners was successful and the result is this fine exhibition of over one hundred local artists set out in a style far removed from one's expectations of an art gallery. Funky and morphing day to day as new works are added, it includes paintings, installations, sculpture, stained glass, photography, ceramics and jewellery. There are places to rest furnished with old church pews and at the centre Gillies has set up a hi-fi and turntable along with some of his vinyl collection. He's happy for folk to bring along an album and play it for the benefit of other visitors.
The end result is a vibrant and eclectic collection with much of the artwork available to buy and at prices that at times seem ridiculously low. The exhibition has been a hit with southsiders even when they had to squirm their way through a huddle of orange suited Dundee fans who descended on the pub on Saturday prior to the team's demise. The show runs until the 31st May and is essential for art lovers and for anyone who wants a peek into the innards of this fine old building.