The building which hosts the Barrowland Ballroom dates back to 1934 and from then has been integral to the working, shopping and entertainment life of the citizens of Glasgow and beyond. Although a fire in 1958 largely destroyed the original building, it was rebuilt, with the ballroom reopening on December 24th 1960.
The venue is synonymous with the history of Glasgow in the latter half of the 1900s and as well as being the place where many couples met and bands performed; there is a darker edge to the Barrowlands.
In 1968 and 1969, three young ladies were murdered in Glasgow, with police believing that they may all have fallen victim to the same man. The latter two ladies had been in the Barrowland ballroom on the evening of their murder with the chief suspect being a man who was given the nickname ‘Bible John’.
Findings in 2007 suggest that convicted murderer Peter Tobin may be Bible John with the fact that Tobin moved away from Glasgow in late 1969, around the time the murders stopped, adding to similarities between Tobin and photofit artist impressions.
These sad deaths should always be remembered but there is no doubt that the Barrowlands ballroom has brought much joy and happiness to the majority of people who frequented it.
As a gig venue, it was second to none. The unique ceiling helped the venue carve out an individual style and gig photos of the Barrowlands are easy to spot, even to this day. One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of the venue is down to the acoustics of the venue. The ballroom was built and developed with orchestras playing in mind, which placed a great deal of importance on the sound qualities and there has been a benefit to bands ever since.
Another quirky feature about the Barrowlands as a gig venue lies in the spring dance-floor, helping to give an extra level of bounce to an energetic audience. The Barrowlands may look slightly dated as a gig venue but that remains more of a charm as opposed to a hindrance. There are so many quirky elements to the Barrowlands that if it was to modernise its image, it would lose so much of its appeal.
The stall at the back of the venue selling cans of Miller, the burger and hot-dog stall next to the merchandising section in the floor under the venue, the decor and the back-exit littered with posters from previous shows and decades worth of history.
There is no doubt that the number of top quality gigs that take place in the Barrowlands is smaller than in previous years. Increased competition from the Academy and ABC venues has made it more difficult for The Barrowlands to entice the top touring names. Other issues about the hiring of sound and lighting rigs have also been cited to explain the drop off in number of gigs at the venue.
Regardless of the amount of shows the venue hosts, The Barrowlands has secured its place in the history of live music, helping to cement Glasgow’s reputation as one of the best cities to see live music. Alongside the Apollo and King Tuts, The Barrowlands Ballroom has created a musical legacy that will live longer than those who have witnessed bands play there.