EVENTS bosses have revealed their plans to turn Queen's Park into a major attraction for visitors to Glasgow.

Inhouse took over the running of Queen's Park Arena in 2016 after community members set up a charity to refurbish the derelict bandstand.

After setbacks caused by delays to Scottish Water works in the park followed by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers are now determined to make the arena a vital resource for the South Side community.

Kirsty Hood and Chet Capkiner, both founders and directors of Inhouse, have big ambitions for the arena fuelled by their close ties to the area.

Glasgow Times: Chet Capkiner, owner director of Inhouse with Kirsty Hood, co-director Picture: Gordon Terris

Chet said: "Queen's Park is a huge asset here. Let's make it so that people go, 'Oh you're going to Glasgow? You've got to go to Queen's Park, that's the coolest park in the whole city.

"You go to Central Park when you go to New York so you should be going to Queen's Park when you go to Glasgow."

The four community councils around Queen's Park formed a steering group in 2009 to look at what could be done with the bandstand.

This led to the forming of Queen's Park Arena Ltd, a charity that raised the cash to refurbish the landmark and turn it into an event space.

Glasgow Times: Queen's Park Arena  Picture: Gordon Terris

But it soon became clear that running events was going to be a tough job for a team of volunteers so the charity looked for a company to take it over.

Keith Hawley, chairman of Queen's Park Arena Ltd, said: "The bandstand had been burned down and was left, the parks department had no interest in it.

"At the point it was refurbished there was a feeling that we had created it so the community would come and put things on... but that didn't happen.

"It was a mix between realising we've got this space but we don't have the time or the expertise to do anything with it.

Glasgow Times: Keith Hawley of Queen's Park Arena  Picture: Gordon Terris

"It became clear we needed professionals to do this properly.

"We're still really, really pleased that we stuck with Inhouse and that they stuck with us through a lot of set backs."

Inhouse set up a community interest company (CIC) to run the arena and Kirsty and Chet have invested a significant amount of money and resources into making the space a success.

Until August 8 the arena is hosting a summer series of events with everything from pottery classes, soft play, exercise sessions, skateboarding and film nights.

But despite Queen Park Arena being a non-profit venture, there have been complaints from locals about the fact a section of a public park is fenced off.

Keith said: "There are good reasons for the fences and for the single gate, which are to do with licensing and covid restrictions - these are serious responsibilities and have to be done right.

Glasgow Times: Chet Capkiner, owner director of Inhouse  Picture: Gordon Terris

"Ultimately this should be - and we want it to be - a welcoming space for people to come in and hang out.

"Having the space managed is to the benefit of the community, it's not taking away from people."

Inhouse pitched to take over the arena in January 2016.

The company was involved with festivals across the UK, including Glastonbury, but Chet and Kirsty wanted to have a community focus.

Kirsty lived on Bowman Street in Govanhill for 10 years so was very familiar with Queen's Park, while Chet went to Langside College and, as a student, ran events in the park.

Kirsty said: "For me it was about wanting to contribute to the area.

"The transformation that's happened here has been incredible and I've wanted to counter the negative stereotypes that people had about the area.

"That was a big, big driver for us."

Chet added: "When we came forward to pitch our idea we weren't a CIC at that point and that was quite difficult for us because we were self-funding a lot of events but we weren't able to get any outside funding because we were a private company so we were effectively like benevolent philanthropists.

Glasgow Times: The Queens Park Arena, now fully reopened. STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..26/7/21.

"The idea was to look at what are some of the problems in this area and then design the events to try to address some of those problems, to be part of a solution for creating a community hub."

In the first year of organising events for the park, a Scottish Water major works programme that should have taken six months was hit by a string of delays and affecting the arena.

But the organisation was quickly back on track, increasing the number of events each year from an initial four events organised by Queen's Park Arena Ltd to six in 2017, 16 in 2018 and 43 in 2019.

Last year, however, the entire programme had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

Kirsty said: "It's hard because there's so much energy and excitement that goes into planning events.

"Events themselves are about bringing people together and sharing a communal experience and covid was the complete antithesis of that, particularly here when we're trying to bring different people with different backgrounds together and it was about survival for us first of us, how are we going to manage?

Glasgow Times: Kirsty Hood, co-director of Inhouse   Picture: Gordon Terris

"These are people who rely on Chet and I to pay their wages, so it was really hand to mouth stuff for a while but then luckily furlough kicked it.

"The uncertainty is exhausting. You need to keep people safe so you've got this moral responsibility but you want to be doing the thing you love.

"And you feel like, 'How have I got the right to say that when I'm not a doctor, I'm not on the front line' but it was exhausting."

Across the company Inhouse had 65 people on the rota and had to ask staff to work for 25% of their wages to keep afloat.

Chet added: "It was a bit emotional for us because all of our staff said yes, let's do it."

This year, the first three weeks of the summer programme had to be cut at the last minute due to covid restrictions, meaning 240 hours of programming lost just before its launch.

Chet said: "We were hearing a lot of feedback from people complaining that the arena was an underused asset and not enough events were being organised.

"Meanwhile in the background we're totally dying, spending all summer working so hard and being told no, we can't go ahead.

"We were throwing cash at it and investing so much time and trying to organise what we could but we weren't allowed to put anything on."

Despite the setback, this year's programme is the largest yet with 80 events held so far and another 50 to go.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the arena was used by local groups - a development that Chet and Kirsty have turned into a bonus.

Bands had been coming down and playing during the lockdown, which caused a headache for Inhouse as locals wrongly thought they were holding late night events against restrictions.

When they challenged the bands, there was anger from people who felt Inhouse had no right to tell them not to use the venue.

To try to tackle this, the pair launched Open Stage, a chance for bands to play at the arena with professional sound engineers.

One of the changes Inhouse made to the amphitheatre was to install a concrete stage, which helped deal with flooding problems.

As well as being a draw for bands, the stage turned the arena into the perfect spot for skateboarders.

Chet said: "That obviously wasn't our intention, but it started being the focus point of skaters and some of these guys started coming down and using it all the time.

"They started being like the stewards when we were not here because they were actually clearing up the place because they didn't want to be landing on glass bottles or rubbish."

Inhouse has now hired 18 of the local skate community to work at the arena and has incorporated skateboarding into the summer programme with a week of events.

Skater Jethro Jones is now working at the venue. He said: "It's become the best place on earth for skating.

Glasgow Times: The Queens Park Arena, now fully reopened. STY..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..26/7/21.

"We would tell people not to drink and drop litter and tell people we were skating here. And because there were about 30 of us, all adult men with our wooden toys, usually they would stop trashing stuff up.

"And because we were coming down early in the morning we would either bring brushes with us or if they were on site ask to borrow brushes and bin bags.

"We wanted it to be clean and safe for us to use."

Inhouse also added rigging points to the arena, which were used by boxing clubs during lockdown - so they added exercise classes to the programme of events to include them too.

Glasgow Times: Queen's Park Arena   Picture: Gordon Terris

Chet said: "The long term model for this space, it will be more than an entertainment venue.

"We would want there to be a fitness programme, we would want there to be skateboarding as part of the programme and not just events but a community hub for all these activities we're incorporated thanks to some positives of lockdown."

Another development at the site is the addition of plumbed in toilets thanks to a £20,000 investment from Inhouse.

Keith said: "Drainage and the pipes under here were in an absolute mess. No one had touched them for 50 years or so, and nobody was doing anything about it.

"This is the invisible stuff. This isn't some people coming in and taking over, this is actually really helpful to the custodianship of our public spaces and this is in the community's interest."

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