IT'S hard not to succumb to the rough-and-ready charm of the Gallowgate, that stretch of Glasgow's east end that begins just a few minutes' walk away from the upscale shops of Buchanan Street.

The Barrowland Ballroom occupies a sizeable part of the street. The 2,100-capacity venue, one of the best-known in Britain, with a giant neon sign that has become a landmark, has played host to everyone from Bob Dylan to REM, U2, David Bowie and Oasis. Next to it lies the Barras, the famed open-air weekend market. All around are pubs, shops and restaurants. An adult shop sits just opposite.

This is a street that stirs all sorts of opinions, some of them fairer than others. "A walk up the Gallowgate – takeaways, pawnshops and Celtic pubs ahoy – can feel a bit dicey on occasion, but it's all part of the Barrowlands experience," an English newspaper noted a few years ago. "A dingy red-light area of Glasgow," one architecture magazine said disapprovingly, back in 1999.

An encyclopedia of Scotland notes that Gallowgate retained "much of its distinctive earthy charm" despite wholesale demolition and regeneration. "This part of town is gritty, and a far cry from the historical tenement buildings of the centre, but it gives you a taste of the city's authentic character," observed the Dubai-based Business Traveller Middle East in 2014.

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Going back even further, the Edinburgh-born novelist Naomi Mitchison, in her notes for a post-war novel, wrote impatiently of the Gallowgate: "Notice how many children you see with obvious rickets, impetigo or heads close clipped for lice; see the wild, slippered, sluts, not caring anymore to look decent!"

You get the picture.

But things are changing. The area is increasingly home to creative businesses and a new generation of pubs and restaurants. The Creative East End organisation is one such; based at 200 Gallowgate, and led by Lauren Stewart and Jen McGlone, it provides space for initiatives and ideas to flourish in the interests of economic growth and regeneration. Over at Calton Entry, the thriving BAaD - Barras Art and Design - includes a fish restaurant, A'Challtainn, as well as concerts and a Sunday indoor market.

Just next to the Barrowland lies what was once a well-known Celtic pub. Baird's Bar, it was called: here, 19 years ago, the then interim Celtic manager Kenny Dalglish held one of the more unusual press conferences in the club's history. Baird's was shut down amid various well-publicised difficulties in 2014, but recently it was reopened as a restaurant, 226 Gallowgate, which has been praised by none other than the Herald on Sunday's exacting restaurant critic, Joanna Blythman. "The people who opened 226 Gallowgate," read her concluding paragraph, seem to get old Glasgow, its mood, its character, its value."

In Bain Street, close by the Barrowland, there is Saint Luke's, a noted live-music venue, and the award-winning Winged Ox Bar & Kitchen. Other key local venues are the Van Winkle Bourbon BBQ Grill, at 267 and the award-winning pub. Hielan' Jessie, at 374. WEST Brewery, at the Templeton Building on Glasgow Green, has been flying the flag for the east end for 13 years.

Something, it seems, is stirring in the Gallowgate.

Cross the road from the Barrowland and, next door to the adult shop you'll see another new venture: The Gate, a lounge bar, a "modern Scottish pub", the brainchild of Andy Gemmell, a well-known drinks consultant who is also a columnist on the Herald on Sunday's Scottish Life magazine.

Together with Tom Joyes, general manager of the Barrowland, Gemmell discloses plans to rebrand the area as the East End Quarter - to, in their words, "create the visual reason for people to visit East and make it a must-visit neighbourhood in Glasgow."

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More of The Gate first, though. It's hard to miss, with a vivid yellow diagonal stripe across its facade and front door. It occupies a site that, from next year, will have been home to a remarkable succession of Gallowgate watering-holes for 200 years. It's quite a thought: since 1820, the year of Scotland's short-lived Radical War, locals have been knocking back beer and whisky in industrial quantities in this very space. Its more recent inhabitants included The Haven, and The Emerald Isle.

Gemmell, whose CV has seen him work in award-winning bars and travel the world as a whisky ambassador, speaks with some pride of the history of these premises; the fact, for example, that when you enter them, you're in the original close of a tenement that once loomed over the Gallowgate, two centuries ago. Faded uncovered signs, advertising long-forgotten businesses that once traded here, can also be glimpsed.

Gemmell knows the area well. His previous role – the marketing consultancy, The Drink Cabinet – was one of the many businesses based round the corner in East Campbell Street, at the Glasgow Collective, whose founders, brothers John and David McBeth, were, he says, the first to bring a creative side to the Gallowgate. (The collective includes Dear Green Coffee Roasters, which was voted Glasgow's Favourite Business less than a year ago).

"Their premise was to bring young, up-and-coming businesses into the area. It's that basic equation that we see, for example, in Hoxton or Shoreditch [in London's East End] – affordable business space for younger people. I fell in love with the area after that. It's had its issues, its troubles and everything else, but I just fell in love with it.

"Three years ago this place came up for sale. It was a good price, and I saw the opportunity. Everyone thought I was mad." Why? "Because of its general reputation, which I felt was exaggerated; people's perception of the area was always as if there was an invisible force-field when you get to The Tron [on the other side of Glasgow Cross from the Gallowgate]."

He notes that both the Trongate and the adjacent Merchant City have been flourishing in terms of bars and entertainment, but laments that "a stigma" has attached itself to the Gallowgate. "There are lots of factors that have given rise to this," he argues, "but people have highlighted these rather than looking at the positives of an amazing village in the middle of Glasgow city centre, with amazing people in it as well. Incredible people. I felt the area has what it takes to be an exciting hub for the city,"

The premises we're sitting in now were in a neglected condition when he first saw it. There were, for example, six different ceilings, all layered one over the other: "The place," he says, "was like a Russian doll."

It was only at the start of this year that he finally decided to focus all his energies on turning the space into The Gate. "People were steering me off, saying, what are you doing, opening a pub in the Gallowgate?" He knows that a more obvious choice would have been Finnieston, the West End or the Merchant City, "but I just see the potential down here. I see the potential for the area. If there was an actual physical equation of what makes an area, then the closest I've seen in the UK isn't Shoreditch or Hoxton. It's a place in Manchester called the Northern Quarter. It's got a live-music venue, a high concentration of licensed premises, and lots of character – much, in other words, like the Gallowgate.

"What I wanted to create was a modern pub," he adds. "I grew up in Greenock, my family owned pubs, and what I've always been obsessed with is the ideology of a pub." The decor includes original features, such as fireplaces and oak beams; the interior is dark forest green with copper touches, a reclaimed wooden floor and textured tartan wallpaper; the gantry is extensive. The toasties include chorizo and chilli jam.

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Gemmell insists that "gentrification" of the Gallowgate is absolutely the last thing on his mind. "As soon as I got the keys for this place, the first thing I did was go across the road and introduce myself to every single person I saw, and told them what I was going to do. I know the old-school way in which things work.

"I couldn't be happier with the way things have gone so far. On the opening night recently I had Stevie, from [nearby] Bar '67 and his wife having a cocktail, alongside many local people, all enjoying the atmosphere. I'm not here to gentrify anything: I'm here to highlight what I think is a great area, and hopefully use my travels and my experience to make this place a success."

"We've just got a feeling for the area," Tom Joyes says with emphasis in his wood-panelled office, deep within the Barrowland Ballroom. "Not just myself, not just Andy, but everyone in the general area.

"Our company, Maggie McIver Ltd, founded the Barras way back in 1921 and opened the ballroom in 1934. In two years' time the market will be a hundred years old.

"Now, in all the 34 years I've been here, we've always been in a void so far as the various authorities – Glasgow City Council, the GDA [Glasgow Development Agency], the SDA [Scottish Development Agency], you name it.

"We've never been city centre, we've never been really 'east end' – well, we are east end, but nowhere actually in it: it's such a vast place. We were neither one thing nor the other. The 'void' was the word that they all seemed to use.

In the wider Gallowgate, Joyes observes that what has been evolving "are entrepreneurs, artistic types, artisans". Entertainment has improved, too: the ballroom is gaining in fame and worldwide prestige. And he argues that the area is right on the city centre's doorstep, not out in a distant scheme.

"We're in this East End quarter," he continues. "I think you should look at the map of Glasgow and should be seeing Finnieston, the West End, Collegelands, the city centre, Merchant City – and the East End Quarter. It's all the city centre, sprawling outwards. The sooner we get a recognised address of where we are, the better."

He foresees a time when the Barras' location can be given as the East End Quarter. "A nice address; it spruces it up a wee bit, to go with the nice streets and things like that." More: there could be a time when London Road, and businesses currently based at the Templeton building at Glasgow Green, can also say they're based in the Quarter. "Everything gains a wee bit value, a wee bit of prestige, a wee bit of credibility, as the whole area is improving."

Up until a couple of years ago, Joyes confides, the area around the Barras wasn't a place he would have considered visiting for a meal on a Saturday night, but he and his partner have done just that, several times - BAad, Saint Luke's. He recently took some male members of his family on a pub-crawl. "I told them we were going to the East End Quarter. They said, 'what's that?' The places we visited were all very pleasant.

"There's CCTV being installed: the place can only become safer. The streets and pavements have been upgraded. The whole area is evolving. Our message is that, of an evening in the entertainment sides, you can go to Merchant City, or the East End Quarter."

The group behind the plan for an East End quarter brings together many of the influential people, including Joyes and Gemmell, who are reshaping the Gallowgate. Promotional material, shown to The Herald, speaks of an intention to “showcase the best of hospitality, music and the arts in The East End of Glasgow.”

It continues: "Glasgow’s East End, [based] around the iconic Barrowland Ballroom, has seen a resurgence over recent years with some great food and drink operators and creatives hustling hard to drive tourism and bring a new focus to the area.

"It is our mission to create a platform to showcase these diverse venues, the people, music and attractions, to propel Glasgow’s East End Quarter into the spotlight as the ‘place to go’."

There will be heavy promotion of #EastEndQuarter across Instagram and Facebook, and, the material says, "we will create beautiful photography, immersive video and styled posts to champion East End Quarter businesses, attractions, art venues, people and more, with a strategic plan that engages stakeholders and visitors."

Tourism will play a key part. "There is so much potential for tourism and we will galvanise operators and businesses in the area to collaborate and thrive together. We will promote as a destination – a must-visit neighbourhood for tourism in the city and make East End Quarter the new Finnieston in Glasgow. By working with influencers, media and building the #EastEndQuarter community, we will get everyone talking about going East."

There's even hope that, one day, the new quarter will have its very own festival.

The new Finnieston? It is, needless to say, an ambitious plan, but the entrepreneurs behind it are determined to make it happen.