Citizens Theatre has been a staple of entertainment since its initial opening in 1878. The building and its camaraderie have managed to withstand the effects of two World Wars, bankruptcy, and the rampage of a run-away show elephant which destroyed most of the auditorium’s stalls. Now in 2016, the integrity of the theatre’s original Victorian architecture is suffering under the strain of increasing popularity, matched by the overall lack of funds for redevelopment. The Citz Sessions were therefore part of an ongoing and expansive fundraising attempt to raise money to repair and restore the theatre to its former glory.
The three-day event showcased the best of the Glasgow music scene with each night offering a different genre for audiences to enjoy in the intimacy of the Citizens’ auditorium. The opening night showed both the talent and influence of female musicians from the lead singer of popular 80s band Altered Images, Clare Grogan to the 2012-formed girl-group Teen Canteen. Acoustic performances from Scott Hutchinson, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit and Withered Hand’s Dan Wilson were among the indie rock bands to take the stage for the second night of the fundraiser, which culminated on Sunday 16th October with a Scottish salute to Gaelic and folk musical heritage. The set list for each night was accompanied by the talented Rogue Orchestra, adding a richness of sound to the unembellished melodies.
The theatre’s proscenium arch provided a backdrop to the spotlighted musicians, singing songs of love, loss, suicide and addiction. The haunting, mesmerising quality of the Victorian theatre added another dimension to the experience. Jacob Yates, lead singer of Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers who appeared in the line-up for the second night of fundraising agreed that there’s a certain intensity that the Citz provided the performers. “I think for me it’s the way I write songs. It’s about presenting stories and it’s around a narrative so a theatre setting is really good… the whole kind of atmosphere you get is stunning”.
The sense of community amongst the audience was undeniable with members enjoying the friendly environment created by the MCs and acts. The Citz is established as a place where communities can join together in the celebration of culture, highlighting its importance both as a societal support system and as part of Glasgow’s history. “I used to think it was just a square room with a stage in it but when you’re in it you get to understand how long it’s been here… you lose a lot of places like that if you’re not careful you end up with having just modern buildings with modern stages”, added Yates.
The fundraiser was only a fragment of the estimated £20.8 million redevelopment project currently taking place alongside appeals for production and education sponsorship, adding to the list of ways the community is coming together to rescue the Grade-B listed historical landmark. The fundraisers hope to revitalise the theatre’s auditorium and give a new lease of life to the original Victorian set machinery.
The theatre is strongly encouraging anyone to get involved in the redevelopment by becoming a Friend of the Citizens; benefits include discounted prices and opportunities to access backstage action. All proceeds will go towards funding the renovation of the building, as well as supporting current and prospective creativity.
Jacob Yates and his band The Pearly Gate Lock Pickers will be performing at Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in December 2016.