Easterhouse's Platform celebrates its 10th birthday
As Platform reaches an important milestone, the Glasgow multi-arts hub is building on a decade of success
‘When you are ten, it is time to be mature.’ So says pint-sized sage Nicole of Oakwood Primary School in Easterhouse. And she should know. Along with the rest of her primary five class, she turns ten in the same year as her local community hub Platform celebrates its own tenth birthday. Her words and those of her classmates are quoted throughout the multi-arts venue’s new brochure, acknowledging their role as the venue’s classroom-in-residence. ‘Classroom-in-residence’. Now that’s community engagement.
So does Platform need to mature? It seemed to arrive fully formed a decade ago and has only grown as a vibrant arts base beside its neighbours in The Bridge (also celebrating its tenth birthday), an open plan complex which also includes Glasgow Kelvin College, the local library and a swimming pool, as well as Platform’s performance spaces and café bar. As performance programmer Matt Addicott points out, there are no walls between these institutions. ‘That’s one of the things that makes it so distinctive and unique,’ he says. ‘This desire to get rid of walls and barriers between different services all under one roof so people can access them as they please.’
Platform rose out of a burgeoning local arts scene in a part of Glasgow once notorious as a sink estate, and was built on a site traversed so regularly by residents that they had worn desire paths into the grass. ‘The three main entrances and exits in the building were built over these pathways so it feels like it’s what the people want and need,’ says Addicott. ‘It’s important to us that we build on what’s here rather than parachuting in and delivering something that doesn’t make sense. When you’ve been in the area for a period of time you build up trust and people take more risks in terms of the activities that they come in to see.’
That community engagement runs through Platform’s programme of workshops and performances, whether aimed at all ages or particular groups. Music programmer Alun Woodward – well-known in this parish as former frontman of The Delgados and part of the crack team who run Chemikal Underground Records – has been with Platform since the beginning and cites composer Malcolm Lindsay’s project When We Grow Younger as a highlight. Lindsay worked with pupils from Sunnyside Primary to create the piece.
‘Malcolm was most excited about the children writing their own quartet piece on adapted software,’ says Woodward. ‘It was funny to watch incredibly talented violinists getting their heads around kids who don't know the rules about writing classical music.’ Woodward talks of ‘a genuine desire to link a community into an ambitious arts programme’. No local battle of the bands here, but an adventurous bill which attracts music fans from all over the city to board the time-honoured bus from Mono out to Easterhouse.
Every autumn, the Eastern Promise festival curates international artists alongside familiar Scottish names, while the Outskirts festival spans a number of artistic disciplines. For this year’s Outskirts, SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph was commissioned alongside Marcus Mackay and Twilight Sad frontman James Graham to write songs inspired by a series of Easterhouse Conversations they had with members of the community. ‘Such positive humans with life stories that made us laugh and near sometimes cry,’ says Joseph. ‘It was such a great way to get some sort of feeling for what Platform do. The difference this place makes to people’s lives was very obvious and beautiful to be around. It’s a beautiful building inside and out.’
The voices of local residents can also be heard in Rules of the Dancefloor, a new mixed-media piece for the tenth anniversary celebrations, which combines audio clips of locals recalling their dancing days with live choreographed performance. That piece is part of Platform’s Made in Easterhouse programme, which extends throughout this anniversary year, and also encompasses artist-in-residence Deirdre Nelson’s work with older Easterhouse denizens, who have already created ‘mapping tablecloths’ of the area which they will continue to embroider at a succession of sewing bees for use at future Platform parties.
‘A few people have said “there’s more to Easterhouse than the bad press it’s had in the past”,’ says Nelson. ‘I have been amazed at how many community groups there are and how much activity is going on in the area.’ Addicott agrees: ‘what happens here doesn’t match the historical reputation of Easterhouse, the two are quite incongruous. We’re really keen to redress that reputation and tell the story of what’s happening in this building and the wider community.’
That work is set to continue as outgoing arts manager Jackie Shearer passes the baton to her successor Jenny Crowe. ‘It feels like a really exciting time,’ says Addicott. ‘The importance is being placed on the audience and the artists. The audience is local but the outlook is international.’
Platform’s tenth birthday party is on Sat 30 Jul.