In what is the 2nd Birthday of the Glasgow Gallery of photography we thought we should give a wee update. We have been delaying this post a for a few months, however now is a good time to let our visitors and our supporters and members know what exactly went down with the gallery and our landlords back in the spring.
We decided to keep our powder dry while there were still remaining businesses in the building, but now most of them have now moved on, we feel we must now speak out.
When the Global pandemic hit, I as gallery director decided that in order to safeguard the gallery's future we would make an conscious effort to make sure our rent was paid every month and on time and in full, this was so that we would not go against our rental agreement and that rental debt would not be racked up.
During the first 4 months of the pandemic, we survived solely on donations and your kindness, as we were only up and running for 6 months, we hadn’t had enough time to build up a substantial “Back up fund.” So we ate through our cash reserves paying rent and when we reopened in the summer we were literally down to our last £340. We then had to close again in November, This time we received some money from the council, which was just enough to see us through until March 2021. During the entire 2 lockdowns time we received no communication from Colab.
This was unusual, but not surprising. In March we were informed by the Centre manager “Colab were gone.” They had blown their entire budget and were bust essentially. The savoy were taking over the running of the space, “This however did not necessarily mean rent increases.” Which translated as “Expect rent increases.” What came next will forever stun and confuse me. At a meeting we were informed that our rent would be potentially going up 50%. This alone was infuriating; we had paid our rent despite being closed for over a year and were now being told our rent was going up 50%, coming out of a pandemic and being closed for months. This seemed extremely unfair, so we proposed a gradual rent increase over a 3 month period so that the gallery could re-open find its feet again and have a look at the general situation, as at the time no one knew what the pandemic situation would be, we could be in lockdown again in a month, or 2 months, paying double the rent. We made this proposal in writing, and we received an email back saying our rent would now be £750 + vat…A WEEK. Bringing our annual rent to around 42k a year. For a unit just over 400 sq. ft. a 740% increase. Not including Rates, meaning our yearly outgoings would be close to 50k a year! We obviously thought this was a mistake, but no, we were told, “Folk will pay that for that unit because of its location.” To put this into context, there was a 5 story building for rent on the same street for 40k that was 8000sq ft We obviously decided that the landlords had completely lost their minds and offered our immediate notice and got the hell out of there. As did at least 10 other businesses, all of which where new business within the first 6 months of trading. Although the gallery space we were in was always supposed to be temporary, the pandemic prolonged our stay there and complicated everything, We were planning on being in a new gallery by the end of the summer, however this experience left a terrible taste in our mouths, How a landlord can force 740% rent increases on businesses coming out of a pandemic is simply galling. The Savoy centre now lies mostly empty, Most the businesses that have moved on to better things, however the ones that remain will no doubt be struggling for trade when there is no customers or footfall. The businesses in Colab survived in spite of colab and the savoy, not because of them. What was supposed to be an incubator space almost became a coffin for so many business and traders as Colab vanished into the night, never to be seen or heard from again. The gallery itself is in good condition and the past 2 years have been a trial by apocalypse rather than by fire. And we survived it, the gallery will return soon and we are searching for a space that will help and nurture so many talented photographers. We just wanted to get the last few months off our chest and let folk know how greedy landlords can be and how challenging it is for arts venues in Glasgow.