Kevin Buckle: The Athenians of the north just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle

Scotlands rich musical heritage, represented by the likes of The Athenians, pictured here in 1965, is just as worthy of preservation as the Viking hoard
Scotlands rich musical heritage, represented by the likes of The Athenians, pictured here in 1965, is just as worthy of preservation as the Viking hoard
0
Have your say

While preparing for The Only Fun In Town exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in the middle of this month I’ve spent the last week speaking to and researching Edinburgh and Scotland’s sixties bands. The exhibition is billed as “a history of Scottish pop music from the 60s to the present day via post-punk and 80s indie” and this last week was about acquiring the final pieces of a rather big jigsaw.

While preparing for The Only Fun In Town exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in the middle of this month I’ve spent the last week speaking to and researching Edinburgh and Scotland’s sixties bands. The exhibition is billed as “a history of Scottish pop music from the 60s to the present day via post-punk and 80s indie” and this last week was about acquiring the final pieces of a rather big jigsaw.

Meursault's album I Will Kill Again

Meursault's album I Will Kill Again

However, what became clear very quickly was that this was not just about reminding folk of the great heritage Scotland has in popular music over the last 50 years or so but also about preserving that heritage both in acquiring material from that time and even more importantly in recording the memories of those involved.

The Athenians were one of Edinburgh’s top bands of the time and the first to record a single, and I’m pleased to say we will have a copy on show at the exhibition.

None of us are getting younger and it is vitally important that this is done now before it is too late. I was amazed at the lack of information, with Facebook being as good a source as anything. There are a few books out there, but not many. I’ve spoken to others who have looked at doing something in this area and the answer is always the same: that the amount of work required would need funding and that has not been forthcoming.

Many have questioned why the History of Scottish Music Centre or whatever we end up calling it has not happened before, given there is such an obvious need. The answer bluntly is that while people are happy to work on small projects as a labour of love nobody until now has had the background and been prepared to put in the amount of work necessary without payment.

Initially I was able to get the project started in what little spare time I had from Avalanche but in these days of online selling any time spent on other things is time that could have been used for the business. A promise of a small amount of research funding for six months failed to materialise and I’ve given the idea a lot of my time over the last year, convinced an organisation or individual would come forward to help, but so far that has not been the case.

What has been proved true is the advice I received that even a pop-up, just giving people a taste of what might be, would be hugely useful in focusing on what could be done and after hanging on probably too long hoping to get use of the City Art Centre ground floor the offer from the Fruitmarket Gallery has helped enormously.

The exhibition will stand up in its own right and there will be items not seen for decades but it is hopefully just the start of what could be a much bigger project. Many have pointed out that there are already organisations out there claiming to support and fund Scottish music both past and present but the reality is a little different.

Funding is often very specific and while there is great support to help young people play live in front of family and friends, having the memories of their grandfathers recorded for posterity has no box that can be ticked. There are now general funds that can be applied for but they are massively oversubscribed.

It is an irony not lost on me that several of the organisations that might fund the music project say that it is such a good idea that it would surely attract a sponsor or do well crowdfunding. The visual arts and classical music do have their patrons of course as well as sponsors but pop music in all its forms so far has been expected to fend for itself. Crowdfunding is not the “fix-all” that some think and is a very overcrowded arena.

Given my recent thoughts on preserving the memories and artefacts initially from the sixties I read with interest the recent newspaper reports about who would preserve and display the “Viking hoard” found in Dumfries and Galloway but to be given to The National Museum of Scotland. The initial funding for that project is £1.98 million.

There is no doubt that the hoard is of great importance and interest but is it of any greater importance and interest than Scotland’s rich musical heritage? Both need preserving and the latter will cost substantially less!

The Only Fun In Town runs from June 16-18 at the Fruitmarket Gallery. For more details visit www.fruitmarket.co.uk/event/the-only-fun-in-town/

Meursault would be popular pick

The announcement of the Scottish Album of the Year award longlist has left the judges with a dilemma.

None of the newer bands have really produced an album to compare with the many established bands on the list and yet to give the award to an established artist will not really have any great effect on their career. Probably the exception to this is Neil Pennycook and his band Meursault with their fourth album, who while falling into the latter category have never really received the recognition they deserve.

They would, I think, be popular winners both with the public and fellow artists.

Size matters

Whoever gets the job of being the new Convener for Culture and Sport in Edinburgh Council, they will need to hit the floor running given among many other things the current debate over Edinburgh’s music venues.

It is important that people differentiate between stand-alone venues and those that operate as part of a bigger complex and have nothing like the overheads. Of course maybe being part of a bigger picture is the way forward for smaller venues but for now the problems faced have to be judged allowing both for size and location.