The Great Eastern: 'A new cultural venue with direct community benefit to people who need it'
- David Pollock
- 24 July 2018
credit: Beth Chalmers
As an exciting new ad hoc DIY venue springs up in Glasgow, we find out more from the team behind the venture
This really isn't what you expect from the place which is being touted as the most exciting new gig venue to arrive in Glasgow this year. As we turn up to meet the team behind it at 3pm on a weekday, the usual occupants are being ushered to their waiting buses; a group of elderly Glaswegians who come to socialise in this building just off Great Western Road in its usual guise as Glasgow's Golden Generation, formerly the Fred Paton Day Care Centre. Inside, the wood-lined hall has more of the feel of a church hall, with circular tables and chairs laid out for a quiet game of bingo, perhaps.
But what a room it is, though; or rather, what potential it has. 'I love the dimensions, the material, the sightings,' says Brian Reynolds of Synergy Concerts and the nearby Hug and Pint, whose idea it was to turn this place into a regular event space, and who's willing to make bold declarations about what it can be. 'It's the best venue of its size in the city, against competition which includes Stereo, the CCA, King Tut's and Mono. I love those venues, but this is a classic community hall space. It'd be great for a ceilidh as well.'
With an intended capacity of around three hundred, the venue – which will be called The Great Eastern – won't be purchased by Reynolds' team. Instead, when the existing service users have left for the day, they will hang a sign out the front, load in their equipment, set up a bar and convene an ad hoc DIY concert space. It's already been tried with a one-off Algiers gig late last year, and apparently it went well.
'I found out one night that my friend's band Holy Mountain were playing a gig around the corner from the Hug and Pint, so I took a look,' says Reynolds of how he discovered the space. 'It was organised by a bunch of skateboarders. It was cool. It was mental. The place had been available for hire, but I think the owners made it not available again when events caused damage. But once we approached them and ran the Algiers show, and got to know them a little bit, we got to hear their concerns and find common ground. They certainly weren't up for it right away, but we're used to working with all sorts of different spaces. That's the basis of being a concert promoter, working out the intricacies of a new space.'
Glasgow's Golden Generation gets a hire fee from the events, and will hopefully benefit from building upgrades which Reynolds' team have to make along the way, but there's more than commerce to this venture. 'The purpose of the day care centre is to promote social inclusion and fight loneliness,' he says, 'but what is a music venue if it isn't a community venue? Most of these places aren't businesses first and foremost, essentially – how can you separate the venue from the community it serves? Our audiences are pretty switched on, they want to benefit the community they're operating in, and the vast majority of people will be respectful to this venue. We're making a real effort to educate them on what it is and why they ought to support it, and we'll be raising additional money from them for the centre.'
Following August's launch, around a dozen shows are booked at The Great Eastern (named after the Delgados album, and the fact it's at the east end of Great Western Road) for the rest of this year, including Courtney Marie Andrews, Iceage, Haiku Saloon, a Spare Snare and De Rosa double bill, and all-female Springsteen tribute group The She Street Band. 'There's stuff in for next year already,' says Reynolds. 'Hopefully these shows will go well, the city will get behind it, the public will get behind it, and it will start to become dear to the people of Glasgow, a permanent cultural venue with direct community benefit to people who need it.'
There are still issues to iron out, including obtaining an alcohol license and developing a relationship with the venue's residential neighbours; on the latter point, it will be fitted with a state-of-the-art sound desk which allows control over every aspect of the audio, to help tweak the perfect levels for everyone. 'But we can't expect too much too soon,' Reynolds says of his stated ambitions. 'All we can do is start it and see where it goes. It's the very beginning of the journey.'
The Great Eastern launches with a by-invite party on Fri 10 Aug, and it's first gig is The Gracious Losers on Fri 31 Aug.