Introducing Jazz at the Third Eye

Welcome to the first blog post from Jazz At The Third Eye, a Creative Scotland funded residency at the CCA Glasgow. My name is Stewart Smith. I'm a music journalist and researcher, and for the past few years, I've been digging into the history of improvised music in Scotland. For this project, I'm establishing a digital archive of jazz and improvised music at the CCA’s previous incarnation, The Third Eye Centre, from 1975 to 1992. Founded by jazz musician, poet, playwright and former International Times editor Tom McGrath, the Third Eye hosted numerous jazz and improv concerts as part of its radical arts programming. 

An early adopter of video technology, McGrath and his comrades filmed a number of events at the Third Eye, the neighbouring McLellan galleries, and the Scottish Arts Council Gallery on George Square. These were digitised as part of the Glasgow School of Art’s Glasgow Miracle project: check out amazing performances by Derek Bailey, Julius Eastman, Brotherhood of Breath and Keith Tippet, alongside local acts like Birth and the Andy Law Project. There’s also extensive footage of the 1978 Sound and Syntax International Festival of Sound Poetry, organised by the late, great Tom Leonard.

Seeing The Glasgow Miracle exhibition a few years back was a big inspiration - here was a Glasgow institution bringing the international avant-garde to the public, all the while supporting local artists and forging close links with the Garnethill community. I was particularly fascinated by the jazz footage and sought to find out more about the gigs that happened there, as well as the local scene. That led my Wire 430 feature, “Once Upon A Time In Glasgow”, which focused on the activities of McGrath and his circle in the 1970s, and the talk I gave for last year’s Tusk Virtual

So now I’m building on that by pulling together the existing archive and gathering new materials. You can follow the progress of my research on this blog. We'll launch the archive in October with a programme of performances and talks. I’m commissioning new works responding to the archive, which will be presented online across two weekends in October. We’ll bring you more information about that in the coming weeks, but the idea is to create a dialogue between Scotland’s cutting-edge musicians, past and present. 

If you attended, played or organised jazz and improvised music events at the Third Eye, I want to hear from you! Public contributions to the archive can include interviews, anecdotes, audio recordings, video footage, flyers, programmes, press clippings etc. While the project remains open, there are four key themes: the legacy of Tom McGrath, the Glasgow jazz scene, international artists, and South African jazz and the anti-apartheid movement in Scotland. 

I’m keen to hear any memories you might have of concerts by Archie Shepp, Dewey Redman, Trevor Watts, Barbara Thompson, John Tchicai, Red Brass, Head, John Zorn & Fred Frith, Derek Bailey, Peter Brotzmann, Atsimevu, Tom McGrath groups, Eddie Prevost, Harry Beckett, Kenny Wheeler, Carol Kidd, John Surman, Roscoe Mitchell, the Blue Notes, Jimmy Deuchar, Lol Coxhill, Ken Hyder’s Talisker, Johnny Dyani, Mike Westbrook, John Stevens, Julian Bahula, Peter King, Barry Guy, Gordon Beck, David Murray, Chris McGregor, Tony Gorman, the Pointy Birds, Joe Temperley, Arild Anderson, or Bobby Deans - to name but a few. If you have anything to contribute, or know someone who you think might be able to help, please drop me a line at or leave a comment below. 


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