This article originally appeared in The Herald newspaper on January 30, 2014. The listings have been updated to reflect names such as Hudson Mohawke, Todd Terje and Norman Blake having just been added to the ever-growing programme.
Back in 2000, Glasgow’s Delgados released a great album called The Great Eastern. Issued on the much-missed alt-rock charmers’ own Chemikal Underground imprint, it was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, but its significance extends far beyond that. The LP was named after a former mill and homeless hostel near Chemikal Underground’s Bridgeton home, and it resonates with the label’s ambitious new venture, The East End Social. It’s a globally-influenced, community-focused music programme for the East End of Glasgow, and an official Culture 2014 event that will initially run from April to August.
From large-scale gigs in East End parks to samba workshops in primary schools, The East End Social looks set to culturally remap the city during the Commonwealth Games and beyond, as evinced by its emergent music programme (which will unroll much more fully across a range of genres in the coming months). So far, it includes Glasgow post-rock deities Mogwai (who’ll play as part of a major live music event at Richmond Park over the last weekend in August) and Ghanaian pop trailblazer King Ayisoba (who’ll perform at Easterhouse arts venue Platform on April 10), plus local old-time dance band That Swing Sensation, reggae champions Mungo’s Hi-Fi, beat-boxer Bigg Tajj, Dutch avant-jazz miscreant Zea (The Ex), school choirs and community workshops – not to mention a programme of upcoming Scottish bands, co-curated by BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway.
The bill looks set to be as inclusive as it is varied. “One of the key elements of The East End Social is that it’s not specifically an alternative or indie music programme,” says Stewart Henderson, who co-founded Chemikal Underground with fellow ex-Delgados Alun Woodward, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage in 1995. “We see The East End Social as being a celebration of Glasgow, a celebration of the East End, and a celebration of the music that binds us all together,” he says. “There’s absolutely nothing elitist about what we’re trying to do – it’s about trying to connect, and reconnect, communities in the East End through music, and to try and energise this side of the city with events that haven’t been happening regularly, or haven’t been happening at all.”
Among The East End Social’s flagship events is a reggae sound-system at Alexandra Park Gala Day (June 21), courtesy of home-grown sound-system Mungo’s Hi-Fi, who’ll be joined on the mics by UK dancehall legends YT and Tippa Irie (with more acts TBC). It marks
their first-ever large-scale party in the East End, according to James Whelan of Mungo’s Hi-Fi. “The chance to share what we love to do with East End folk in a large public space has never come around before, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, ” he says. “From our perspective, there are no venues at all in the East End where we could run a sound-system session, and late-night life is next-to non existent – the area is sorely under-represented in this respect.”
Whelan continues: “As well as sharing our music with local people, and giving the East End its first taste of real community sound system dance, we’re hoping that plenty of Commonwealth visitors will make the trip to Alexandra park, to create a multi-cultural and positive atmosphere.”
The Gala is an annual fixture in the East End calendar, and Henderson suggests that bringing something new to existing events is key to the ethos of The East End Social “This isn’t just a programme exclusively curated by us, or something that we’ve chosen to deliver to the East End,” he says. “We’re looking to work alongside people who’re already doing stuff, and maybe improving or extending the existing provision. It’s about trying to weave this project into the fabric of the East End community. It’s about what’s already happening here; it’s about trying to draw these disparate threads together.”
Henderson and Woodward have been liaising with East End organisations and communities since last summer, which has led to East End Social ventures like bringing a Dixieland jazz band to a pensioners’ party (as they did at Christmas for Bridgeton Community and Learning Centre), putting samba percussionists into Dalmarnock Primary (planned for later this year), and equipping another local primary school, St Anne’s, with instruments, and recording facilities, via their lauded Chem19 studios, with a view to them recording a Commonwealth song. (Members of The Vaccines and Frightened Rabbit are rumoured to be lending a hand). They’re also developing a music project for a local care home with DIY heroes Howie Reeve and Rory Haye, and will be promoting the Playlist For Life charity – an initiative which acknowledges the importance of personalised music playlists for those people suffering from dementia.
True to its warm, evocative name (and nature), The East End Social will explore and celebrate the area’s rich heritage and social history. This, of course, includes its iconic neighbourhood venue, the Glasgow Barrowland, which is set to host traditional Tea Dances, replete with a local Big Band, on May 3 and 4. “We want to try and hark back to the halcyon days of the Barrowland Ballroom,” Henderson offers. “We’ve got this 18-piece jazz band, That Swing Sensation, and we’ll have tea, cakes, drinks, and there might be vintage buses running to the venue, or people in doing hair and make-up,” he says. “We want to cater for some of the older East End communities – Easterhouse, Bridgeton, Rutherglen – but also to welcome people from all over Glasgow, and we’d be looking to try and attract younger people who’re into the vintage side of things as well.”
This sense of inclusion, and accessibility, is a critical touchstone of The East End Social. “This is a co-operative project that we think can only continue to grow and gain momentum long after the Commonwealth Games have gone,” says Henderson.”Lots of different people, venues, organisations and businesses can legitimately consider themselves to be part of The East End Social – it’s Bridgeton Community Centre, it’s the Gala Day at Alexandra Park, it’s Dennistoun Barbecue and it’s St Mary’s Church in Calton. All of these things have the ability and capacity to inform what this project is about – which is trying to invigorate the area that we’ve called home since 1997, and trying to instil as many small and large and indoor and outdoor music events as we possibly can.”
He also identifies The East End Social as being a critical venture for Chemikal Underground, whose current artists include Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert. “This is not a stand-alone project for us,” Henderson says. “I see this as being a significant part of where we want to go, moving forward. Not that we’d ever look to turn our backs on the release of records, which will always be a part of what we do, but if we’re able to pull this off, I see Chemikal Underground as having a key role to play in becoming an arts organisation within the East End of Glasgow,” he offers. “Now is our opportunity to see if we can help to enliven areas of the East End; to see if we can shine a light on a very under-appreciated side of the city.” You cannot fault their bright ideas; their great (Eastern) expectations.
The East End Social is supported by Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme’s Open Fund and urban regeneration company Clyde Gateway. The Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme is a partnership between the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life and Creative Scotland. www.eastendsocial.com
THE EAST END SOCIAL: HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR
April 10: Easterhouse arts venue platform (whose music programmer is Chemikal Underground’s Alun Woodward) welcomes Ghana pop visionary King Ayisoba, as part of a kaleidoscopic bill with the Dutch freak-jazz of Zea, and Glasgow tropical-noiseniks Sacred Paws, on April 10.
May 25: The East End Social and Optimo will transform the Barrowland Ballroom into a club bacchanal featuring some of our most thrilling global and local electronic acts, including unmissable live performances from Nordic electro seducer Todd Terje and throbbing hypno-groove pedagogues Golden Teacher, plus DJ sets from Glasgow’s inestimable Optimo (JD Twitch and JG Wilkes), Hessle Audio’s Ben UFO and Tim Sweeney (Beats in Space / DFA).
June 7: Davey Henderson’s art-pop iconoclasts Nectarine No.9 will reconvene at Rutherglen Town Hall to perform ‘Saint Jack’ – one of the truly great Scottish albums – with support from ace latter-day post-punk reprobates Casual Sex.
June 21: Scottish Album of the Year Award nominees and reggae sound-system Mungo’s Hi-Fi will make their East End debut at Alexandra Park Gala Day on June 21. They’ll be joined by dancehall renegade Tippa Irie (who’s been sampled by the Black Eyed Peas and collaborated with Alexander O’Neal) and YT (plus more TBA) – sure to attract nearby music lovers and roots voyagers from further afield.
August 5 / 6: Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Joe Pernice’s glorious New Mendicants bring the summer harmonies to Bridgeton’s excellent (and intimate) Bowler’s Bar.
August 8: Scottish Album of the Year Award winner RM Hubbert brings his beautiful, heartbreaking Ampersand Trilogy (and his deadpan anecdotes) to Rutherglen Town Hall. The flamenco-punk heartbreaker will be supported by brilliant primal-folk sage Richard Dawson.
August 30 / 31: Post-rock overlords Mogwai, who scored their first-ever Top 10 album this year with Rave Tapes, are a flagship act for The East End Social. The long-time Chemikal Underground affiliates will perform at a major live event in Richmond Park on August 30, while August 31 sees an all-day party curated by Numbers and Optimo, headlined by electronic superstar Hudson Mohawke. It looks set to be the last big weekend of the summer.