SO successful is Glasgow's CCA that is has become a blueprint for how a modern-day arts facility should be run, with many cities around the world keen to follow its set-up.


That's quite a turnaround when you consider the venue was so disliked when it reopened in 1992 as the CCA that people turned their back on it.

Less than 10 years ago, when Francis McKee took over as director, he started a quiet revolution with a shift to a more democratic way of working and a return in many ways to the ethos of the old Third Eye Centre.

The simple act of opening the doors, welcoming artists and performers, as well as the public in, and encouraging them to stay has proved to be the perfect business model.

Francis's thinking was inspired by the redevelopment of the building between 1999 and 2001 that saw it take over a villa at the back and a building on Scott Street. The work doubled the size of the centre but with the operational budget not changing, some lateral thinking was required.

"To just have CCA in that building was going to be reasonably arrogant and lonely. It didn't seem sensible in terms of public money and it did seem there was a huge amount of beautiful space," he explains.

"So in a way by 2006 when I started I was told I could do what I wanted. That was the big blessing because once I was told that, for instance, the office space was cut in half and also used as a residency space.

"Big offices for a director and a PA seemed irrelevant, a lot of the spaces were repurposed to get more art in. We thought, if you can see art, more people have the space to do art.

"Then we realised people who wanted to use the building couldn't afford to, so it was better to give it away and let them use this beautiful building, and it brings in an audience.

"If we can make the building useful we justify our existence. The momentum has built up over the years, you can see now how it all works."

It recently won the prize for Best Cultural Venue at the Glasgow Awards, recognition that the CCA is as much loved by arts-goers as makers.

The attendance figures say it all. In 2014-15, more than 42,000 people attended 802 events.

With 43 staff, including full-time, part-time and freelance across administration, programming, curatorial, events, development, communications, technical, install, front of house and cleaning, the CCA is an example in these recessionary times of a success story.

Now funded by Creative Scotland as a hub, it runs a core programme of exhibitions and events as well as hosting the work of artists from at home and abroad.

"It was very cold in a sense before. The cafe is very good in that it doesn't move you on urgently, you can stay there all day just drinking coffee. And the free wi-fi has been really helpful," says Francis.

"It is all these tiny things that are saying, hang around, you can just be here all the time, and that made it a place where people felt comfortable and that is a good place to breed art.

" Artists like to work in a place like that. And then the public like to come and hang out in a place where artists are hanging out.

"It was getting back to some of that early spirit of the Third Eye."

Originally from Northern Ireland, Francis studied and worked at the University of Glasgow before moving to Glasgow School of Art, where he still teaches and does research, and then the CCA.

As well as organising the archiving of 40 years' of material stretching back to the earliest days of the Third Eye Centre, his role is very much looking to the future.

"I think there was a reasonable amount of annoyance at the CCA opening. It didn't have an opening ceremony," he says.

"I think a lot of people loved the Third Eye deeply and when it shut and this other place just opened they weren't pleased with that. The CCA had a very different sense of what it was there for and it seemed to be there for contemporary art.

"It was very much more about uniting to the contemporary art world in Europe and the rest of Britain and that seemed to imply that would be great if you liked contemporary art, but if you liked the puppet shows that used to happen before and wanted to come into the cafe for a roll, those things were no longer there.

"So there was a sense of it tightening its focus onto contemporary art and that alienated a lot of people who probably liked the more community atmosphere and the openness of the Third Eye.

"I think that has gone full circle."

A total of 80% of activity in the CCA now is by other people, underwriting artist projects that otherwise might not see the light of day.

And four cities in South Africa, including Johannesburg and Cape Town, are keen to follow the CCA example.

"There have been a lot of discussions around sharing the open source model. When there's not a lot of money to spend on art they could actually do a lot more," he comments.

"And a lot of people want to be involved in South Africa. The country is amazing for culture, but the question is, how do you find places and an economic way to work that?"