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The start of something big

What is the East End Social, anyway?

DATE: Producer and DJ Hudson Mohawke will perform.
DATE: Producer and DJ Hudson Mohawke will perform.

Is it Sydney Devine at Glasgow Green? Is it Bridgeton hip-hop workshops? Is it Edwyn Collins and Justin Currie playing one-off shows in intimate spaces? Or Barrowlands tea dances, ceilidhs, kids' choirs, reggae in Alexandra Park, and Easterhouse gigs from Ghanaian pop kings? It is all of these things, and much more besides, as evinced by the past six months in Glasgow. A cardinal part of this year's Culture 2014 programme, the East End Social was launched in March by Bridgeton-based independent label Chemikal Underground, in a bid to culturally enliven the city's east end.

It has since brought 56 workshops to schools, social clubs and churches; staged large-scale events like Glasgow Mix Tape (The Bluebells, Lloyd Cole, Bis, Sydney Devine etc at Glasgow Green); and hosted one-off shows like the Nectarine No. 9 in Rutherglen Town Hall.

In all, the East End Social has programmed 117 artists across 158 performances through 58 venues, and its inaugural programme culminates in a final fling in a big top at Richmond Park tomorrow and on Sunday. The Last Big Weekend stars Kanye West collaborator Hudson Mohawke, post-rock leviathans Mogwai, indie-gods The Wedding Present, disco-punk star James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), techno pioneer Jeff Mills, alt-rock duo Honeyblood and more.

"I think the Last Big Weekend bill speaks a lot for Glasgow," says Chemikal Underground co-director Stewart Henderson. "It celebrates the music that we love, the music we produce, and the music that we're influenced by." True to this, the line-up salutes and explores the city's gilded indie/rock and electronic lineage (Sunday's line-up is co-curated by Numbers and Optimo), and pits influential global names (Mogwai, Hudson Mohawke) against upcoming acts whose music they've shaped (F*** Buttons, SOPHIE).

There are myriad artistic connections within the bill, such as LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy's enduring allegiance with Optimo.

"No-one's on there by accident," offers Henderson, and nods to his former band The Delgados who founded Chemikal Underground in 1995.

"The Wedding Present being there is as much a Hitchcock cameo for The Delgados as it is for The Wedding Present themselves," he says with a laugh. "They were such an important band to us - they were the first big band to give The Delgados a UK tour, we released [Wedding Present offshoot] Cha Cha Cohen on Chemikal Underground, Emma sang on [David Gedge's side project] Cinerama, and Simon Smith from the band tour-managed Mogwai for years."

The Last Big Weekend wraps up this year's East End Social activity, and coincides with the final day of Glasgow's Culture 2014 festival.

But, funding permitting, Henderson hopes that they're just getting started.

"Do I want there to be another East End Social? Absolutely," he says.

"Do I think we could still do more to engage with east end communities? Absolutely. Everything we've done this summer is predicated on the idea that we are starting something, not finishing it. We're trying to demonstrate that there is a need for this, an importance to it, an appetite for it. And there is, without a shadow of a doubt."

Does Henderson have any personal highlights from this year's East End Social? "I don't want to get too philosophical, but most of the really special moments were those that felt like fully realised examples of what we set out to do, which was to bring Glasgow communities together, in the east end, around music events," he says. "

We had some really great moments at the Bowler's Bar in Bridgeton - the New Mendicants, Justin Currie, Withered Hand - and [day-long street party] the Duke St Expo did something similar on a different scale, whether it was the Ex Wives playing in the tattoo parlour, a jazz band in the Sally Army shop, or Hector Bizerk in Dennistoun Bar-B-Que. A lot of the locals who were walking round that day were saying they'd never seen Duke Street like that in their lives."

He continues: "And the Barrowlands tea dances were amazing. They really made us realise that with the Barrowlands, you've got this unique venue which has housed all of the romance, and loves, and passions, of generations of people from Glasgow," he says. "There were women coming into the ballroom and bursting into tears, breaking down, because they hadn't been in there for so long and the place meant so much to them.

"Whether it's the East End Social who deliver it or not, the fact that there aren't more tea dances for older people in the Barrowlands is a total disgrace. These are events that absolutely must happen."

It will be strange to see Glasgow without the billboards, banners and bunting for The East End Social. For months now, they've bedecked the city, sporting a mantra ("Look to the East!") that reflects the project's ethos. Henderson nods. "When we were first thinking about the East End Social, I sketched out what we wanted it to represent with our designer, Martin Baillie," he says.

"I think what he did with our branding and logo is extraordinary, in terms of capturing what the East End Social was all about - you know, celebrating the area's social activism, the history of the People's Palace, trade union banners, the Calton Weavers.

"The whole idea of the East End Social was geared up as a nod to social clubs; to that idea of people working hard and coming together to enjoy music."

That notion will be writ large at Richmond Park, for the last big weekend of summer.

The East End Social presents The Last Big Weekend at Richmond Park, Glasgow, tomorrow and Sunday. Tickets are still available. www.eastendsocial.com

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