West End Festival

West end festival

Celebrating its 20th year in business, the West End Festival has returned to Glasgow with bigger acts than ever before.

Festival Founder Michael Dale said:“The 2015 WEF has a lot of big names, including comedian Elaine C Smith, choir composer Mark Carroll, and (the Gruffalo) author Julia Donaldson.

“There is a real mix of activities scheduled: music, shows, food and drink stalls, galas and guided walks through the city.”

Over 100 Glasgow-based organisations have joined the festival, which showcases arts groups and local talent. The festival does this by presenting national treasures alongside hidden gems.

Dale said: “One of the most exciting local acts at the West End Festival will be a collective of Samba players (from across Scotland). The Samba players will be performing at the end of the parade, on the steps of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, and again at the Kelvingrove bandstand.”

He added: “The bandstand will also be hosting lots of local bands (of different genres) on the last day of the festival.”

Another musical must-sees, Dale said, is the WEF Festival of Choirs. This concert unites Glasgow Phoenix, Govan Gaelic, Dublin Airport, Glasgow Philharmonic Male Voice, and the Govan Schools Combined Choirs, at the Govan Old Parish Church.

He said: “Govan used to be in the same borough as Partick, till about 1914, so the choir concert celebrates this connection to the West End.”

Connecting the West End to the international music scene is Elaine C Smith and Christina Dunwoodie’s show, Torch Song Divas. The show (running at Websters Theatre) will examine eternal themes of love, loss, betrayal in a variety of genres.

Dale added: “Torch Song Divas should be great; it promises lots of big song numbers.”

While the adults are bound to love the gigs, Dale explained there is more to the festival than music.

He said: “The festival appeals to people of all ages, for kids there is a series of children’s author talks, both in and outside of schools.”

Among these talks is Julia and Malcolm Donaldson’s appearance at Maryhill Central Community Hall. Here the authors will be joined by illustrator Nick Sharratt, to recount tales from their books.

Books may not appeal to all kids, and so Dale explained interactive family workshops are also sprinkled through the festival.

He said: “There will be lots of workshops, including those ran by the Children’s Wood group (in North Kelvinside). This group offers nature based workshops exploring things like bugs in the habitat.”

For the less green fingered, there will also be workshops ran by professional artists, making  costumes for the parade.

The parade, Dale explained, was one of the founding principles of the festival.

He said: “The first festival was in June 1995 and it occurred to me then that we needed a way to promote the event; so I came up with the idea of having a parade, not that I had a one to hand, but I didn’t think it would be too hard to make.

“I met some people who wanted to start a parade in Glasgow, and make the costumes, so between ourselves we created the first West End Festival.”

Although it is an iconic part of the festival, Dale stressed that there is more to the event than the procession.

He said: “The West End comes alive in a special way during the festival. There are events throughout each day, including: exhibitions, concerts, food and drink. Those who have never been to the area before will be surprised just how much there is to do.”

He concluded: “A lot of the festival is free, with many people taking part on a voluntary basis.

“The West End Festival Website has a search function that you can use to find free events each day.”





An interview with Lisa Stewart of SambaYaBamba

If you watched the BBC hype of the 2014 Commonwealth Games then might you might have noticed a Samba band jazzing outside Buchanan Galleries. Who are these guys and what were they doing there? Well here sax player, Lisa Stewart, explains all.

“SambaYaBamba are a community band, formed in 1996.

“Recently we got to play live for BBC breakfast, as part of the Commonwealth Games coverage; it was great fun and we’re excited to be associated with the Games.

“The live TV segments were just snippets; a bit different from our normal performances. We also spent the morning performing for crowds on Buchanan Street to get them excited for the Games.”

Hired by Glasgow 2014 officials, to create a festival atmosphere, SambaYaBamba played the streets and venues of the city, something in which the band was already well versed.

“We’re all proud Glaswegians, so we’ve done more than our share of rainy and windy sets. Our music is so energetic though that it’s always fun – and hopefully we brighten up the days of the people listening.”

Bright is apt description of the band, usually clad in tartan and red icon tops.

“Our t-shirt logo is developed from the Glasgow coat of arms, the fish are meant to represent the fish swimming towards the ring in the Clyde, from the story of the coat of arms. It’s tough explaining this one when we play abroad! We always get a lot of attention at the annual samba festival in Germany for wearing our kilts.”

Every year the band travel to Coburg festival to represent Scotland in the global samba scene.

“Coburg is the highlight of our calendar. This small town in Bavaria, Germany becomes a mardi gras for samba groups from all around the world. We always get a great reception and after going for years, it’s now a massive social event for us where we are reunited with our international friends.”

Trips like Coburg are made possible from the band’s relentless performances.

“We are a non-profit band. Every member has full time jobs – our performance fees keep the band running and enable us to run beginners workshops, and travel to festivals.”

The band has also stared at festivals closer to home, leading the way at Glasgow’s West End Festival 2013.

“We were upfront, leading the parade from the Botanic Gardens and through the streets of the West End – we could not believe the crowds that turned out. Over 80,000 people saw us that day – the atmosphere was electric. It just shows how much Glasgow values community events like this; at our heart we are a community band.”

This is shown in the band’s usual bill of festivals, gala days, club nights, weddings, and corporate events.

Such practice has allowed the band to develop its own style, which veers slightly from the genre norm.

“We are of course, primarily a samba band, but we don’t just stick to Brazilian music or traditional samba. The fact that we have a horn section really sets us apart from other baterias (Brazilian drumming groups) and opens up a whole range of styles that we can play.

“Our set includes reggae, funk and drum n bass – even a bit of rapping and beat-boxing sometimes.

“I’ve been in the band for over three years now. I play saxophone, so I’m not actually part of the bateria. In the horn section we develop our own riffs to go with the grooves that the bateria come up with. We don’t use any written music, just come up with our riffs and memorise them. We improvise a bit too, especially on the funky tunes.”

To sample these tunes, get information on live performances at SambaYaBamba website.