The hedonism of the 1920s and 30s is legendary, and Swing on Glasgow’s Hope Street harks back to this former age. Its art deco interior, tailored to nightly entertainment, is the brainchild of owners Craig and Emma McDonald who have invested £400k buying and transforming this modest basement space into what the owners hope will become one of Glasgow’s ‘must- go-to’ live music venues.
It’s the couple’s first crack at the licensed trade whip. Emma’s background is advertising and marketing, and Craig is a quantity surveyor in construction. “I was able to utilise a lot of my expertise and experience as the property had been vacant for about four years and in that time things had deteriorated,” he said. “There was water pouring in through a light well, so a lot of remedial work was needed like damp proofing and rock works. We also totally reconfigured the layout.”
And what a transformation. Once through the door at ground level you descend the stairs into the main area with a jazz-venue-meets-supper club (although canapés is as far as the food offering goes), with the bar to your right and the stage area on the left hand-side. It has a sizeable stage and equally generously proportioned back of house facilities for artists to prepare. It is split level, with the bar and majority of seating on the upper section, with the stage and a smattering of chairs and tables on the lower part.
The bar is the centrepiece of the design, however, with its raised illuminated gantry and art deco-mirrored back wall displaying the bar’s branding. The veined marble bar top is equally as eye-catching, as are the glass droplets that hang from the ceiling immediately in front of the bar. Hanging the droplets was a task undertaken painstakingly by Craig, with a little help from some relatives. He explained, “There are 1000 droplets in all, that my sister-in-law and three nieces all hung up. It’s this attention to detail that we wanted the interior design to be known for.”
Then there are the freezes by local artist Ivan Coghill and they take up the majority of room on both walls at the bar end of the space, and depict some flora and fauna, which look lovely and are slightly reminiscent of Glasgow’s Rogano restaurant. Another standout feature are the tulip lampshades, one above the stairs at the entrance as you descend into the bar, and the other in the far right hand corner next to the bar, hanging above a corner booth, and these were sourced by the architect on behalf of the McDonalds, and originally belonged to an English country house.
The furniture is a mixture of banquettes and leather upholstered stools and chairs in a champagne colour, and there’s also a crushed velvet material in a similar colour running down the back of the biggest banquette in the far right corner. The flooring is a mixture of tiling and wood, and the ceiling is painted white.
As entertainment is an integral part of the operation, the facilities back of house were a chief consideration, and they certainly haven’t stinted on this area. Directly behind the stage, which is a relatively simple construction all in black with a black curtain backdrop, are not one but two areas for performing artists, that includes Swing’s resident chanteuse, Hannah Jackson. The first is a changing area complete with wardrobes for costumes, many of which are vintage. Leading off from this is a separate area for hair and make-up complete with a large dressing room mirror, and a toilet leading off it. Equally, sound was a major consideration, as Craig explained. “Our sound man Rory Watson came up with a spec for the sound equipment that would amplify at the level that was discreet enough to allow conversation among our clientele, yet loud enough to amplify the acts, which also includes live bands. It’s not as if we are a young person’s venue so moderating the sound was essential.”
The final mention must go to the toilets which are out of this world – particularly the female toilets. Individual cubicles complete with their own sinks and art deco mirrors have been finished to a superb standard, and there’s also some interesting pictures hanging in there, too. Said Craig, “Emma and I were at the Edinburgh Food Festival and we came across Ayala champagne, which was popular in the 20s and 30s, so we thought it would be a really good fit with what we are doing here. Inverarity-Morton kindly dug about in their vaults to find some Ayala brand imagery which we have hanging in the toilets.”
Swing is currently only open from 5pm Thursday through Sunday, but Craig and Emma are also thinking about opening the venue for corporate functions during the week.