Donald Anderson: City summit is music to ears

Stars such as Robbie Williams are heading to the Hydro. Picture: Robert Perry
Stars such as Robbie Williams are heading to the Hydro. Picture: Robert Perry
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One of the few things I’ve found that’s not so nice about growing old is facing the fact that you may be losing your hearing.

Tinnitus is a fairly common problem, and in my case it’s probably down to a misspent youth (and adulthood) going to concerts. I do love a good gig, and in my early days of seeing bands speakers were huge and loud. My ears used to ring for days. Now they just ring all the time.

I started seeing top bands in venues like Clouds and the Odeon in Clerk Street. Increasingly over the years Edinburghers have had to jump in the car and travel to Glasgow to see the big names in music. The Hydro is excellent, and my own recent forays have included Elbow, Eric Clapton and a trip to see Robbie Williams with Kirsty on the very day we celebrated 25 years since we started “going out”. He was on great form.

However, it does bring into sharp focus that Edinburgh lacks the right range of music venues. Clouds in Tollcross (our Barrowlands) is long gone as a music venue, as is the Odeon and most recently the Picture House – actually a really good venue – was closed to be turned into a Wetherspoons.

So why is it so difficult to deliver the right music venues in Edinburgh? The fact is that music, despite the money being made in touring, is a lower value business in a city like Edinburgh. There is very little cheap land or buildings where live music can get the chance to thrive.

There have been successes. The Usher Hall is one of the few venues in the UK with removable seating – installed at great expense to try and attract new music acts to the city. Whilst the principal driver of work on the Usher Hall was its central role to the International Festival (and rightly so), investment was made to make it “user friendly”.

It works, Adele was fantastic and I will be back to see Elvis Costello for the umpteenth time in the autumn.

Let’s not forget Edinburgh’s other smaller venues. The Assembly Rooms has been upgraded and could handle gigs. The Corn Exchange is good, but it doesn’t quite have the atmosphere or acoustics of a Barrowlands or a Clouds. The Queen’s Hall is fantastic for both classical and popular music with superb acoustics. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is pursuing longstanding ambitions to create a new purpose-built venue. The other gap is with a larger venue. Murrayfield is excellent for some acts. But it can only support a few acts a year.

There were attempts to create a new large-scale venue in the past, but for a variety of reasons they all fell apart. Edinburgh undoubtedly deserves its own new large and medium venues. But in a city where land is expensive, delivering such a project is a huge challenge. So I was delighted to hear about the council’s proposals for a “music summit”. A great idea to get all the key people around the table to examine the issues and plan the best way forward. Let’s all get behind the council’s “music summit”. More people actively involved in helping make sure Edinburgh is on the map for major acts in future.

Hopefully, now that many of Edinburgh’s biggest challenges have been overcome, a determined effort will mean we all get the chance to see and hear some of the very top acts in Edinburgh in the not too distant future.

Park friends group has many benefits

ONE of the things I have been roped back into helping out with is Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park. I first got involved in the park in 1986 when I think it is fair to say it wasn’t the finest green space in the city. The area was commonly blighted by abandoned cars, motorbikes and a lot of dog mess. It wasn’t a place to dwell.

That’s all changed. Thanks to a lot of hard graft by local residents working with the council, Burdiehouse Burn has been transformed. A major step forward was being awarded Nature Reserve status in 2007. Then, with a major push by the park’s “Friends” group, Green Flag status was awarded in 2010.

The oldest member of the Friends group is stalwart Gilbert Clark, who is 92 years young. And this small and great band of helpers makes a huge difference. If anyone doubts that just have a look at the property details for a flat on sale in nearby Lasswade Road. Alongside photos of what looks like a great buy is a picture of Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park. Join the Friends at membership@burdiehousefriends.org.uk.

Another fine mess that we must deal with

WALKING is good for you. In my case walking often involves taking our black lab Benji off to one of our favourite spots, Inch Park.

In case you didn’t know, Inch Park is one of those genuine “hidden gems” that help make Edinburgh such a fantastic place.

Over 60 acres of parkland with stunning views of Arthur’s Seat, plenty of trees, a community centre, the brilliant Lismore Rugby Club Sports Hub and enough grassland to walk about without ever having to feel it’s crowded.

Despite the sunshine on Sunday, there was barely a dozen people in the whole place.

Every dog walker will know dogs need to “do their business”, so a constant supply of those little black bags is an essential for any trip to the park. Well, so you’d think. Most dog owners like me do the right thing, however, a small minority don’t, and it shows.

At the weekend, one had even taken the trouble to bag up their dog “mess” and then had just left it on the grass rather than walk to the bin. I welcome the council’s initiative to bring extra staff in to clean up the city during the summer. Parks and public places come under a lot of pressure when the sun shines. I also hope there’s some money for a few extra shifts for the environmental wardens as well.

Campaigns are fine, but I think there’s no substitute for fining dog owners when they are “dumb” enough not to clear up after their pet.

It’s not difficult and there are no excuses. Before we got Benji, above, it used to really bug me that some dog owners didn’t clear up after their pets. Now it bugs me even more. If owners can’t be bothered to clean up after their dogs, fines are the best way to get them to change their dirty habits.