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Ian Smith

An appreciation

An appreciation

When we established The Arches as an arts centre in Glasgow in 1991, we had no idea how long we would survive. There was no funding and no particular plan of action apart from wanting to have fun and make theatre.

What gave us a sense of an Arches style and most importantly the prospect of longevity was the creation of Cafe Loco, a highly theatrical and hedonistic new late-night club which was refreshingly different from every other club in the city.

At the heart of its ethos of experiment, spontaneity and artistic eccentricity was Ian Smith. Every week for those groundbreaking first two years, Ian, with Angie Dwight, his partner, and occasional cohorts, would appear with a new performance of live art and avant grade installation. It was ever provocative, seriously silly, and outrageous.

Ian once estimated more than 80 new pieces of live art had been created for Cafe Loco and through it Ian and Angie formed a performance company unique to Scotland, Mischief la Bas. Ian would always arrive at the Arches impeccably costumed and with a deadpan demeanour but ready to explode at any given opportunity. He would never drop out of character throughout the long evening. On our opening night, we had "liberated" some furniture from the Tramway to occupy the deserted arches and this included a large polystyrene rock. Ian sat atop this rock the whole evening dressed in chef's garb peeling potatoes from a great height which were then sewn together as they dropped.

He might also establish a fairground in the bar, or mound a pile of hundreds of shoes, high heels and boots for intrigued young clubbers to try on, or as a madman with chainsaw held aloft chase the screaming Angie through the packed dance floor only to return later, blood-spattered, offering jam sandwiches to the bewildered dance crowd. Mayhem in artistic creation was a virtue to Ian and indeed it presented an uncanny symmetry with the absurd and existential theatre work we were then starting to produce by such writers as Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, and Eugene Ionesco.

Ian's association with the Arches remained through a range of guises: as Monty Cantsin the DJ in his Casino Royale club, my collaborator on our first Arches promenade theatre show, Metropolis The Theatre Cut, some nine years as the redoubtable MC at the National Review of Live Art, right through to the Arches' 21st birthday celebrations in 2012 . However, without Cafe Loco and the gift of magic that Ian brought to it, we might never have got going in the first place.

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