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Music offerings to coincide with Games show eastern promise

Back in 2000, Glasgow's Delgados released a great album called The Great Eastern.

TRAILBLAZER: Champion of Ghana's pop music scene, King Ayisoba comes to play The East End Social music festival in April.
TRAILBLAZER: Champion of Ghana's pop music scene, King Ayisoba comes to play The East End Social music festival in April.

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 is 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 in the coming months).

It includes Glasgow post-rock deities Mogwai (part of a major live music event at Richmond Park over the last weekend in August) and Ghanaian pop trailblazer King Ayisoba (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. It also includes a programme of upcoming Scots 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.

"There's 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 ­homegrown sound-system Mungo's Hi-Fi, who'll be joined by UK dancehall legends YT and Tippa Irie. 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," he says. "From our perspective, there are no venues in the east end where we could run a sound-system session, and late-night life is next to non-existent.

"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 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 bringing something new to existing events is key to the ethos of the social

"This isn't a programme exclusively curated by us, or something 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 improve or extend 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 organisations since last summer, which has led to social ventures like bringing a Dixieland jazz band to a pensioners' party (at Christmas for Bridgeton Community and Learning Centre), putting samba percussionists into Dalmarnock Primary (later this year), and equipping another primary school, St Anne's, with instruments and recording facilities via their 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 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 suffering from dementia.

True to its warm name, the social will celebrate the area's rich heritage and social history. This includes neighbourhood venue the Glasgow Barrowland which is set to host a traditional Tea Dance, replete with a local Big Band, on May 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 social.

"This is a co-operative project we think can only continue to grow and gain momentum long after the Games have gone," says Henderson. "Lots of different people, venues, organisations and businesses can 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 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.

"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

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