Tuesday 25 November 2014

Wintersong, The Platform, Easterhouse - Gig Review

Wintersong Festival, The Platform, Easterhouse - Gig Review. November 2014

I've been to a couple of events at The Platform in Easterhouse now and always found it a great venue. Nice staff, decent spaces for performances and just about accessible from the city centre with a short walk from Easterhouse train station or, as on this occaision, those nice people at Mono often run a bus to gigs. It goes without saying that this is what the people of Easterhouse have to do in reverse when gigs are elsewhere.

Wintersong was billed as "an evening of music and song based around the theme of winter". With eight acts lined up it promised to be a busy evening and Northumbrian guitarist and singer Steve Malley (who performs as Horse Loom) had the task of kicking things off whilst it had hardly got dark outside, or many people had yet got to the bar. He admitted to not having done his homework on the winter theme but played a grand set of folk-tinged tunes, and told some creaky jokes. (On a side note if you Google "Horse Loom band" you do get to see some lovely ponies that people have made with those colourful wee rubber bands, I bet he never thought of that when he chose the name.)

Next up Plinth had Michael Tanner, sporting beard and sailor's cap, and friend looping their accordion and violin into bleak drones. Then Howie Reeve played solo with his acoustic bass, giving us lyrics like a "one legged pigeon pecking at a battered sausage" and looking on winter as a political winter we are going through in the post-referendum Britain of David Cameron. 

The winter theme gave Alasdair Roberts plenty of scope to indulge a very Scottish list of seasonal cold hearts, death, betrayal and poison. His folk leanings seem to view winter as a dark place. Mesmerising as ever, I could have watched him perform for another hour, but the tight schedule didn't allow for that and it was back across the hall again to hear Richard Youngs. At this point it is obligatory to use the phrase "prolific and diverse" to describe Richard's musical output. Tonight he bemoaned a sore throat, so he played guitar whilst his young son Sorley was the star of the evening with a 30 minute, impeccably delivered piece. He'd suggested that the piece was based upon the 154 days between the clocks going back and then forwards again in the spring, 14x11 dividing the piece (also the same number as Shakespeare's sonnets by the way). Whatever the reasoning it was the stand out performance of the night. 

As Grumbling Fur Alexander Tucker and Daniel O'Sullivan and a lot of kit delivered a half hour set of psychedelic electro-prog-rock. Very enjoyable it was too and I'd look out for them performing again. They feigned an attempt to find a wintery theme to their songs, but Louis Abbot, lead singer of Scottish band Admiral Fallow, didn't even pretend. As he tried out the novelty of playing solo, it did feel a wee bit as if he was missing his band. 

Finally, the previous Scottish Album of the Year winner RM Hubbert played a specially composed instrumental piece on unaccompanied guitar, giving us a quieter, more reflective perspective of winter, like a wee mouse having to "thole winter's sleety dribble". I wouldn't have been surprised to step outside to find the silence that a sudden 6 inches of snow creates, but it was the usual mild, wet Glasgow winter nonsense and the strum of the traffic on the M8 back to town soon shook me out of my tranquil repose.

Monday 24 November 2014

Street Art - Glasgow Murals (with 23.2.2016 update)

Partick Thistle faced Aberdeen this weekend in the SPFL match of the day. This was the first chance for many Thistle fans to see the new mural which has been commissioned from Rogue One on the wall behind the city end of the ground. Very impressive it is too, although you may have been unable to get the full impact of it as despite going to all the effort of organising this, the club continued to allow cars to park in front of the wall, rather lessening the effect I would suggest.

I used this as an excuse to think up a 10 mile running route for myself this weekend, trying to go via as many murals and street art as I could recall on the way around.

I came up with a lot more than I thought I would  but I am sure that I have forgotten many others, as although these often raise a smile as you pass them they are largely unremarked upon. One problem I have with some of this stuff is that it can be a bit nice, a bit safe. The idea of street art is surely that is often reacting against things, it is temporary and spontaneous, whereas much of the stuff in Glasgow has been commissioned by the city council and even features in a city centre walking tour leaflet. The Belfast murals these ain't.

Anyway I started my run at Partick Cross and went up Hyndland Road, Cleveden Road and then up the Butney to get to Maryhill Road. A couple of grubby gable ends here have been brightened up by murals painted by Rogue One (Bobby McNamara) and Ejek.

These were commissioned by Maryhill and Summerston Community Council and I am a big fan of the wee Scottie dog looking at the bee. 

The light isn't great in these pictures, but it was an early winter morning, the sun wasn't really risen and the rain was hosing down, so don't blame me.

I headed down Maryhill Road next to see a mural done by Scottish artist Elph for the In Common Project for the Commonwealth Games. This is on the gable end facing East Park children's school. It is meant to contain lots of nods to local Maryhill things such as the canal, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's church and the multi-cultural nature of modern day Maryhill. 

It also records the annual taxi outing for children to Troon.

Maryhill has a history of murals on walls, possibly due to the brutal slum clearances of the 1970s in the area that left many a gable end on show. As a youth walking home from Maryhill the mural of the smiling sun would face you on Northpark Street. The mural is still there, if partly obscured by the modern flats in front of it.
In this old aerial shot of Firhill you can see the mural in the top right corner on Northpark Street
The only sunshine which I saw today
Anyway, the thing which got me started on this wild goose chase was next on my route. Rogue One has been doing a mural on the outside wall of Firhill at the city end. When I took these pictures it was almost finished and is an impressive bit of work. I'm sure many a photo will be taken beside it in the weeks to come (if the cars that park here on matchdays are directed somewhere else).

Carrying on down Maryhill Road you next come to Maryhill Community Central Hall which has had a mural on its wall since it was done for Glasgow's year as European Capital of Culture in 1990. 

Running through Georges Cross towards Cowcaddens I had to give an honorable mention to the exercise in perspective which has resided under the M8 flyover here for many years. I've never been sure if it is meant to signify anything or was just done by a student at the nearby art school having a long lunch break. Tips for graffitis artists - if you want it to last, paint it away from the elements in an underpass. This was certainly the case with the "NO SDP" graffiti which was under the expressway flyover at the Thornwood roundabout and lasted longer than the party itself did (I won't say who put it there, will I mother?).

Onwards a wee bit at another underpass, this time to Cowcaddens subway station there is another mural by Rogue One, a clever one playing with shadow puppets.

Heading then towards Strathclyde University's buildings in the city centre there are now murals every which way that you turn. First on Cathedral Street there is another of the murals commisioned for the Commonwealth Games, this one on the side of the City of Glasgow College building was done by New Zealand artsist Askew One.

Then down on various buildings in Strathclyde University are numerous murals now.

This one of a lecture hall is by Rogue One and Ejek, a sare most of the other three pictures here. One is of the nautical training equipment that I think is on the roof of one of the university buildings.

Running through the University I came to the car park on Ingram Street where a profusion of Scottish wildlife is visible through the cracked walls of the Fruitmarket/ City Halls building. These are some of my favourites, done by Smug I believe. 

In this one it seems that the squirrel and fox are debating
who gets to eat the woman getting out of her car
Several gable ends were adorned with sportsmen and women for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and this one below in the Merchant City of a badminton player painted by Australian Guido Van Helten.

From here I ran down to the Clydeside past another hoarding brightened up by Rogue One...

And back around the corner into Mitchell Lane where Glasgow-based Australian Sam Bates (aka Smug) has painted this huge woman, about to pick up the bins(?).

Back down Mitchell Lane at the Argyle Street end is a floating taxi (Reg. no. Rogue One).

Nearby on the Clydeside under the Caledonia Railway Bridge at the Broomielaw are Five Faces, replacing the previous less than impressive sportsmen that adorned the pillars here.

Continuing along the Broomielaw I'd like to give an honourable mention to Victor Paris bathrooms, whose leaky bathroom advert has stood on the gable end near the Kingston Bridge for many a year and fits in with this theme.

Under the Kingston Bridge are a bunch of photogenic swimmers, painted by Smug, which featured frequently in the BBC's Commonwealth Games coverage.

Next, as I continue to wend my way westwards, a quick mention to the lane where SWG3 hides which has many noteworthy daubings on the walls.

Back along the Expressway pedestrian path you come to the underpass to the transport museum where a collection of old vehicles get you in th emood for the delights that await you inside the building, surely the only piece of graffiti to feature a mobilty scooter and a formula 1 car side by side (by Smug).

Coming to the end of my loop now, and up through Partick train station past three more Commonwealth Games murals by Guido Van Helten. This time giant netball players, hockey players and skelly-eyed rugby players. Special mention goes to the spectacular trompe l'oeil of an open lane at Merkland Street Furnishers which was here long before the Conmmonwealth Games.

As I head back towards Partick Cross, just time to squeeze in one more, on the gable end of a Patruick Housing Association building on Purdon Street, just around the corner from John Purdon's graveyard. This mural by Australian Fintan Magee, features a kneeling woman holding a Brisbane house floating in a boat. This was a rather random Commonwealth Games commission also.

Anyway that brought my Saturday morning run back to Partick Cross (and I ended up making it 11 miles by zig-zagging in town so much). This means I could either sit out in the garden at Siempre coffee shop at Kelvinhall subway station and admire their graffitti artist illustrated walls, or wander around to the graffiti adorned Gallus pub at the bottom of Church Street.

Isn't it all very sweet?

Update 26th Feb 2016

Since I wrote this blogpost 15 months ago there have been several new mural additions to the Glasgow cityscape. Also several people flagged up murals that I'd overlooked first time around. So to make sure that you don't miss any I went on a wee run this morning to try to catch them all. My route took me through Charing Cross then along the Clydeside and up High Street. Then zig-zagging through the city centre I headed up to Springburn and back home through Maryhill. 

Klingatron Crocodile at Charing Cross
James Klinge has been working as Klingatron for 12 years. At the pedestrian overpass at Charing Cross he has painted a crocodile, with old brickwork contributing to his scaly back. More hyper-realism wildlife from Klingatron below on the Clydeside at Custom House Quay. There used to be a Tiger beer inspired prowling tiger on this wall, but it has been replaced by this snarling headshot.

Tiger at Custom House Quay by Klingatron
One of the most eye-catching new murals in Glasgow is on the wall surrounding the Clutha Vaults pub on Stockwell Street. In 2013 ten people died when a police helicopter crashed down onto the roof of the pub on a busy Friday night. The bar was crowded, with many in attendance to hear popular Glasgow ska band Esperanza. In July 2015 the bar re-opened and the new mural surrounding it shows many of the faces of people who have drank here, played music here or just hung about in this part of town. 

Clutha Bar mural, Glasgow
The mural was created by Rogue One, Ejek and Art Pistol. The faces include Spike Milligan, who visited the bar after the second World War when he toured with the Bill Hall Trio. Musicians Billy Connolly, Gerry Rafferty, Alex Harvey and Frank Zappa also feature alongside trade Unionist Jimmy Reid and looking over his shoulder is musician John Martyn. With the Citizens Theatre just across the bridge from here on the other side of the Clyde it is no surprise that actors who have played there such as Glenda Jackson, Rupert Everett and David Hayman have also found their way to The Clutha Bar.

Mural at Clutha Bar, Stockwell Street
On the other wall there is the familiar face of Stan Laurel, who in his early days performed at the nearby Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. His father managed the Metropole Theatre across the road from the Clutha pub. Born in Lancashire Stan Laurel moved as a child to Glasgow with his parents and finished his schooling in Rutherglen Academy. After taking to the stage in his early days in Glasgow, he later joined the Fred Karno troupe of actors and traveled with them to America in the same ship that took Charlie Chaplin. 

Also on this wall is the image of Mary Barbour, a Scottish Socialist, who with Helen Crawfurd and many other women launched the Govan Rent Strikes in 1915 against exploitative landlords. A campaign is trying to raise funds for a statue to commemorate Mary Barbour and her actions. 

The man in the beret is safe-cracker Johnny Ramensky, who apparently stopped in the Clutha Bar on his way to the High Court a few times. Whilst in Peterhead Prison he was taken on as a commando in 1943 and his explosive skills used in several sabotage missions in North Africa, Germany and Italy. Woody Guthrie looking over his shoulder there is alleged to have sang in the bar during his brief time here during the Second World War. Billy Bragg resurrected Woody Guthrie's song "Scotch Hills" that he wrote on "leaving old Glasgow" when he played the ABC a few years ago.

Benny Lynch was thought to have stayed at one time above the Clutha Bar. I am a huge fan of Benny Lynch, Scotland's first world boxing champion and think the mural is a great tribute to the man. There is a campaign to have a statue built in the city to remember him. I have previously written about Benny Lynch and if you want to find out more about him please have a look here

Benny Lynch
Just around the corner from here, up a lane on the Trongate is a Spaceman by Ali Wyllie adding a splash of colour here. 

Spaceman by Ali Wyllie/ Recoat
One of the most spectacular new murals is at the top of High Street, not far from the cathedral. The location gives a clue to the story in the image itself. St Mungo is the patron saint, and founding father, of Glasgow. The Glasgow coat of arms with the tree, the bell, the bird and the fish with a ring in its mouth represents stories in the life of St Mungo. St Mungo's old master, St Serf had a tame robin which was accidentally killed by some of his followers, who blamed St Mungo. Mungo took the bird in his hands and praying over it it came back to life. So here you have, in modern day guise, this story told by the mural, with the figure of the man with a halo behind him. Another spectacular work by Glasgow based, Australian artist called Smug
High Street mural, Glasgow, by artist Smug

The work by Smug is scattered all through the city, and once you start spotting it, you can see it everywhere, such as under this staircase beside Kelvinbridge subway station. This looks like a relative of the squirrel he painted on Ingram Street (see above). 

Smug squirrel and skull
As I zig-zagged through town I passed this panda on Gordon Lane, just outside The Lighthouse building, another work by Klingatron. 

Panda on Gordon Lane
Just up Mitchell Lane from their floating taxi, Rogue One and Art Pistol have created this image of "Wind Power", with a dandelion clock blowing mini wind turbines. Then along at John Street there is another work by Rogue One, his Hip Hop marionettes. 

Rogue One mural, Wind Power

Next I took a turn up towards Springburn, in particular to Cowlairs. This mural was harder to locate than I thought, with its back turned to the main road. Just off Keppochhill Road, looking south towards Sighthill Cemetery from Endrick Street this fantastic depection of a steam train powering up the Cowlairs incline is one of my favourites. Another work by Rogue One, this remembers the Cowlairs railway works which produced locomotives, carriages and trains here from 1842 to 1968. Cowlairs also produced 200,000 bearing shells for Rolls Royce Merlin engines during the Second World War. Like the nearby St Rollox Railway Works nothing now remains of this industry and when these jobs left town, nothing locally replaced them. 

I also particularly liked this one here, as in Alasdair Gray's Lanark the main character, Duncan Thaw, goes slowly mad whilst painting an elaborate mural in a church in Cowlairs.

Cowlairs Incline mural, by Rogue One
Next, as I headed homewards I passed a couple of older murals that I missed first time around. First up in Possil at the top of Saracen Street there is a mural to commemorate the lost indsutries here, which I wrote about recently. When I came down Maryhill Road previously looking for murals I caught the one on the northern wall of Maryhill Community Central Halls, but completely forgot about the one on the southern wall. The phoenix rising from the flames represents the Phoenix Ironworks which used to occupy a site on Garscube Road, but also Maryhill rising again from the ashes of industrial decline and demolition. (Insert Partick Thistle reference here)

Phoenix on Maryhill Road
Seen through the back window of Hillhead Library, this mural is on the back wall of The Western Baths Club, on Burgh Lane (reflecting the fact that the library sits on the site of the old Hillhead Burgh Halls site). It is by Leo, and features the baths building itself.

Back of the Western Baths Club, near Byres Road
I know that there are plenty of others that I may have missed, and many new ones will appear. Keep looking up and look out for them.