The landscape has shifted in Eastern Promise, the two-day multi-arts mini-festival, which takes place at Platform in Glasgow this weekend. When the now annual event was launched nine years ago, its focus was solely on music. Given that music programmer Alun Woodward was working as part of a team that includes performance programmer Matt Addicott, with visual art being looked after by Margaret McCormick, an alliance reflecting the blurring of boundaries between artforms was inevitable. This year’s Eastern Promise programme duly allows audiences to move between theatre, music, spoken-word and visual art all on the same night.
“The initial idea behind the festival was to do something that would show off Platform,” says Woodward. “Hence calling it Eastern Promise, because Easterhouse is at the very east of the city. But we wanted as well to show that Easterhouse was very much a part of Glasgow and not something other.
“Eastern Promise was initially a music festival, and partly because of my taste, we had a fairly adventurous music programme that had both Scottish artists and international names, and I think we’ve stuck to that. Then gradually, Margaret, Matt and myself realised that we were doing things individually, so we started looking at different ways of collaborating, and talking about how you could put things from different disciplines and different backgrounds together in the same programme in a way that might encourage audiences to try things they might not necessarily know so well.”
As former guitarist and co-vocalist with DIY indie heroes The Delgados, as well as releasing solo work under the name of Lord Cutglass, Woodward has seen first-hand how how bland and homogenised events can be.
“From my own experience of playing festivals, sometimes it can be pretty much the same bunch of musicians going round the same circuit,” he says, “but I think this is something a bit different.
With all this in mind, this year’s edition of Eastern Promise features eight different events that pivot around two very different shows.
“Matt was really keen to get The Panopticon,” Woodward says, referring to the world premiere of Jenni Fagan’s stage adaptation of her acclaimed novel for the National Theatre of Scotland, which features in Eastern Promise’s Friday night programme. “And I was really wanting to put on Lubomyr Melnyk.”
Both events show the rang and depth of Eastern Promise. The Panopticon is a fiercely intelligent dissection of a teenage girl’s first-hand experience of the care system drawn from one of the most remarkable fiction debuts of the last two decades. Melnyk, meanwhile, is a Ukrainian born pianist and contemporary classical composer, who released his first record more than three decades ago. Making his second visit to Platform, Melnyk’s work is an intense melding of romantic harmonies, insistent minimalism and eastern philosophy, with his most recent album, Fallen Trees, released on the Erased Tapes label.
Also on the Friday night bill alongside The Panopticon is a performance by Burd Ellen, a new song-based project by Debbie Armour, who leads a trio completed by Gayle Brogan, aka Pefkin, and Lucy Duncan to explore arcane traditional stylings in a hauntingly ethereal manner.
The night is completed by visual artist, musician and member of Phantom Band, Duncan Marquiss, who will launch a new exhibition of drawings and moving image works filmed in and around Platform with a live soundtrack. Marquiss’ performance fuses his various disciplines in a way that reflects the explorations of the overlaps between public and private spaces in the work itself.
There is more live art on Saturday, when Shona Macnaughton performs Mandatory Reconsideration, a solo piece first presented in Sweden, and which fuses artist’s talk, Pecha Kucha and Ted Talk in a first-hand meditation on art’s relationship with other types of work and the construction of the so-called creative entrepreneur.
Glasgow-based artist Helen de Main, meanwhile, launches her hand-made book, You Know, Things Like That, with a performance drawn from her exhibition of the same name that took place at Platform in 2017 and 2018. This was drawn from a series of conversations with women living in the east end of Glasgow, and was inspired by consciousness raising groups that emerged from the women’s movement during the 1960s. More spoken-word comes from Chris McQueer, who began publishing short stories on Twitter before they appeared in two books, Hings, and HWFG.
Also from the Erased Tapes roster is David Allred, the American singer-songwriter, whose slow-burning hymnal-sounding works have appeared on two Erased Tapes releases, The Transition and The Cell. He has also toured with Peter Broderick, with whom he collaborated on the Find the Ways album.
Such an eclectic approach to programming has become Platform’s raison d’etre, both ion Eastern Promise and the venue’s other bite-size festival, Outskirts.
“I see them as being two bookends,” Woodward says of the two events, which similarly mix and match artforms in a way that fuses the local with the global. “The feel of them is very similar, with Outskirts an all-dayer and Eastern Promise running over two days, although even that isn’t too tiring. I think there were maybe a couple of events early on where we felt there was too much on, but audiences here can be pretty adventurous, and they will just go from one thing to the other in a way people can do if you keep the ticket price reasonable.”
Local audiences are key to this approach.
“Some of the things we do here I suppose are quite niche,” says Woodward, “but there are a lot of groups we work with on various projects in the building, and that has an effect. We have an incredibly active knitting group, who did a show on Radiophrenia about the joys of knitting, and one of them came to see Lubomyr Melnyk last time he played here, and now the entire group is coming to see him.
“One of the things that’s important for us about Eastern Promise is that it stays quite focused. The future of the festival for us is to try and keep a blend of performances and events that complement each other in terms of mixing up different artforms, but which aren’t just more of the same.”
Eastern Promise runs at Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow, Friday, 7-11pm, Saturday, 6-11pm. Tickets available from Platform at www.platform-online.co.uk and Monorail, Glasgow at www.monorailmusic.com. Buses will depart from Monorail to Platform on both days.
The Herald, October 3rd 2019