Any city worth its salt knows its cultural offering is vital on many counts – for its ability to draw tourists and their wallets, to define the spirit of the place, to shape stories about the people who live there and elsewhere, and to give a platform to those who will tell those stories, whether that’s through folk songs or by spray-painting startling images on to walls. More about Banksy later.

The overground is important – the concert halls, galleries, theatres and cinemas – but so is the underground. It’s there you’ll find the club impresarios, agitprop theatre-makers, DJs, garage punk outfits and, yes, graffiti artists. It’s also where you’ll find their audience: young, questing, restless, energetic. And for nearly 25 years, from its founding in 1991 until its closure in 2015, nowhere in Glasgow said underground quite like The Arches, a multi-purpose venue located in a series of vaulted rooms beneath the city’s Central Station. It was the perfect place in the perfect epoch for a city exploding with talent and noise.

David Bratchpiece was 21 when he replied to a job advertisement in The List for a cloakroom attendant. That was in 1998. He stayed 15 years, moving from cloakroom to box office and finally becoming front of house manager. Now, in collaboration with The Arches’ former press and publicity manager Kirstin Innes, he has co-authored Brickwork, a biography of the legendary venue.

“I kept thinking about The Haçienda in Manchester,” he says. “There have been books, films, everything about The Haçienda. The people of Manchester just loved it so much they wouldn’t let it fade away, and I felt the same had to happen for The Arches.”

The Haçienda, a legendary player in the UK’s Madchester and rave scenes in the late 1980s, was primarily a nightclub and music venue. The Arches was certainly famous for its club nights – 5000 people queued around the block when super-club Cream held a night there – but it was far more than just a DJ booth, a bar and a dancefloor.

“It was such a cross-purpose place, multi-functional, but inclusive to everyone. It had a sort of alchemy that no other venue has really matched. It’s best known for the big club nights, which in themselves had variety – there was no elitism – but there was also theatre, festivals, exhibitions. It managed to pull off these things, often multiple events on the same day. You could be in the box office and there could be a theatre reviewer from Morningside in the queue alongside a guy from Blackhill getting his club tickets.”

The Herald:

Brickwork authors Kirstin Innes and David Bratchpiece

Appropriately for a city which prides itself on its patter, Brickwork is as essentially an oral history. Among those whose recollections are featured are DJs Orde Meikle, Stuart McMillan and Carl Cox, actors Colin McCredie and Stephen McCole, playwright Kieran Hurley, critics Joyce McMillan, Mark Fisher and The Herald’s Keith Bruce, and theatre directors Cora Bissett and Andy Arnold, the man who started it all 30 years ago when he took on the venue in the wake of Glasgow’s reign as European City of Culture in 1990.

Back then it had housed a City of Culture exhibition which was to be called The Words And The Stones until someone pointed out the unfortunate acronym. It was re-titled Glasgow’s Glasgow and was still an almighty flop, but Arnold persuaded the organisers to leave in the theatre seating and then approached British Rail for permission to run an event there during Mayfest 1991. Arnold’s production won an award from The Herald and then received a much-needed financial lifeline in the form of a donation from Jimmy Boyle’s Gateway Trust (Boyle was not unfamiliar with the vaulted rooms which became The Arches, though that’s another story). The council mistakenly provided a licence for 12 months instead of three weeks and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then the list of performers who have come through The Arches on their way to the top is too long to recount, but selected highlights are worth mentioning. French duo Daft Punk, initially signed to Glasgow’s Soma label, went as punters before performing their first UK show there in 1997. Public Enemy’s Chuck D gave a book reading, Massive Attack chose the venue to launch their Protection album in 1994, DJs and dance acts such as Richie Hawtin and The Chemical Brothers played, so did Damon Albarn, The White Stripes, The Jesus And Mary Chain and virtually every Scottish band you can think of from the last 20 years. Leigh Bowery gave his infamous ‘live birth’ performance at anything-went club night Love Boutique in 1994, ground-breaking performance artist Taylor Mac appeared in 2013 and a young Robert Carlyle played in The Conquest Of The South Pole with the Rain Dog company. Peer closely at one picture in Brickwork – the Pan Pan Theatre Company performing in 2007 – and you can see future Oscar nominee Ruth Negga, currently starring in Rebecca Hall’s Netflix film The Passing.

The Herald:

Taylor Mac in the Studio Theatre, 2013

And then there was Banksy. As ever, The Arches was ahead of the game, including the then-unknown graffiti artist in a larger 2001 exhibition whose headliner was Jamie Reid, designer of the Sex Pistols’ iconic Never Mind The Bollocks album cover. Did Bratchpiece meet the evasive art superstar?

“It was a strange one, the Banksy, because to do the exhibition they just closed off the space for a night and the next morning there it was. It was as if some talented Ninjas had been in setting it up. It was a team of them and nobody could ever quite figure out who was who, which was quite deliberate on their part. I’ve still got a t-shirt which one of them gave me, so I could possibly have met Banksy and not been aware of it.”

And the Banksy murals? They were painted over, a fact Arches music programmer Tamsin Austin found herself reflecting ruefully on at the South By Southwest festival a few years later as she watched Brad Pitt queue for an exhibition of the Bristolian’s work.

The Herald:

The famous Banksy exhibition in 2001

Brickwork is published by Salamander Street, a new Scottish imprint specialising in art, music and drama. Its opening lines are “Were you there?”, to which tens of thousands of Scots can answer “Hell, yeah” – at Love Boutique or Death Disco, or any one of the many other club nights which were held there. At Alien War, the legendary, immersive recreation of scenes from the Alien movies. At Mogwai’s first Scottish headline show. At a club night, dancing to Daft Punk or the Chemical Brothers.

But as the book illustrates, you would receive the same effusive response from past employees. Part proving-ground, part nursery, The Arches helped launch the careers of many people now at the top of their professions in the creative industries. Jackie Wylie, for instance, who started as a fundraising officer and now heads the National Theatre of Scotland, or former project assistant Barry Esson, who went on to found acclaimed political arts organisation Arika. And let’s not forget Andy Arnold himself, artistic director of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre since 2008.

“It was such a fast moving place,” says Bratchpiece. “There was a wonderful chaos to it, and I think that as a programmer or as a technician, if you can handle that and get on top of it then you can handle anything.”

The Herald:

Clubbers at Death Disco

The Arches story ends in 2015 when the venue finally closed, though the beginning of the end came with the drug-related death of 17-year-old Regane MacColl after a night out there on February 1 2014. The following year police dismay at mounting disorder and drug use resulted in a requirement to close at midnight, which deprived the venue of its main funding source. In June 2015 The Arches went into administration. The Scottish arts community was mobilised and a supportive petition with 40,000 signatures raised, but amid dark mutterings about politics, land deals and cultural vandalism, the venue closed its doors for the final time on June 15. There’s a picture of the shuttered entrance in the book.

Last word, then, to actor Stephen McCole. “I performed there, I partied there, I DJ’d there, I met the mother of my children there, I made life-long friendships … The Arches is part of me and I am a small part of its story. It was much more than one of the best clubs in the world – it was the beating heart of a massive artistic community.”

Brickwork: A Biography Of The Arches by David Bratchpiece and Kirstin Innes is out now (Salamander Street, £12.99)