I don’t know how many times I have stood underneath the Barrowland’s disco ball, though it’s definitely more than 100. Not all gigs were created equal but the venue has always been special. It’s the only place in the world I won’t turn my nose up at a lukewarm pint of Tennent’s.

One of my favourite nights was about six years, when Biffy Clyro did a three-night stint, playing two albums in full each night. (The steps leading up to the ballroom are still emblazoned with the band’s lyrics as a result of those nights.)

Tickets were gold dust and any pal who had managed to wangle their way onto the guest list was treated with a mixture of suspicion and envy. But we all got in somehow and, honestly, it felt like the closest I will get to experiencing magic. 

And, after that gig, a group of friends and I trudged up from the east end to Sauchiehall Street, to see another band who were playing at midnight in Broadcast. A couple of hundred of us piled down into the basement there and, honestly, that was its own wee slice of magic too.

Biffy Clyro didn’t start with six nights at the Barrowland. They didn’t come out headlining Reading and Leeds, or even selling out King Tut’s. They came up slogging on the local circuit, as most do.

In the case of Biffy, those early gigs are now bragging rights. “I was there when...” followed by some jammy so-and-so who saw them at the 13th Note in 1999. 

But, if those venues hadn’t been there, what would have become of the band? If these tiny, sweaty, dive-bar basements disappeared, where do bands go? Where do you find the festival headliners 20 years from now? (The good ones, at least.)

The UK Government’s culture secretary talked about how this week’s cash boost will save the “crown jewel” venues. It may well do that. But, if we’re not careful, we risk losing the roads that lead to them.

Because it is not those crown jewels which nurture acts on their way up. It is the wee gems that do that.

Scotland’s grassroots venues are fiercely loved (just look at the crowdfunding campaign for Sub Club, which raised more than £100,000 in less than 10 hours). But we can’t let the future of these venues rest on crowd-funding campaigns. The appetite to save the arts in Scotland is encouraging, but the funding has to be used to save more than just the headline acts.

Because the demise of grassroots venues doesn’t bear thinking about. If these venues are allowed to die, think of the talent and opportunity that goes with them. It cannot be an option.

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