For Princes Street the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the windows - Kevin Buckle

Even before we were hit by the pandemic I was in talks with Essential Edinburgh and city centre councillors about livening up empty shop windows with artwork and photos. This was based on the number of shops predicted to be empty because of moves to the St James Quarter.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 7:00 am
A mock-up showing Barry Feinstein's iconic photo in situ on Princes Street

Some readers may have seen the very successful campaign Avalanche ran in Edinburgh after the first lockdown ended using the post punk super hero images of the Brazilian artist Butcher Billy who also designed the Fringe Festival poster for 2020. Siouxsie as Wonder Woman on Princes Street has only just bitten the dust thanks to Ian Rankin’s latest book.

Images with artists and photographers have already been cleared but one idea was a bit more tricky involving the photo Barry Feinstein took of Bob Dylan running along Princes Street in 1966 before his gig at the ABC Theatre on the 20th of May.

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We have located the image as being outside what was New Look and is soon to be a Premier Inn so there is space for a display if the hotel and photographer’s estate agree. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery actually have a silver gelatine print and more can be found about that on their website.

There seemed no better time to launch the idea than this week on Bob Dylan’s eightieth birthday and mock up images of how it would look were unsurprisingly massively popular on social media.

Hopefully those who deal with the photographer’s estate will look favourably on the idea as there will be no attempt to profit from the display beyond improving the look of a rather weary looking Princes Street and it will of course undoubtedly raise awareness of the work of Barry Feinstein who as well as photographing Dylan has many more interesting photos to his name including those of George Harrison and Steve McQueen.

In the bigger picture there are images ready to go from award winning photographers Paul and Lynn Henni and Scott Liddell of Dark Edinburgh fame as well as Edinburgh wildlife photos from Richard Wells along with work by local and international artists so really it is now just a case of gaining permission from the owners of empty shops.

I walked down Rose Street a couple of times last week and if anything allowing all the seating outside has just made things worse as it was virtually all empty. On both occasions there were more people sitting on the Waverley Mall roof than on the whole of Rose Street.

All hopes seem to be resting on the opening of the St James Quarter but I really can’t see those who visit venturing much further than Multrees Walk. At least having artwork and photos to look at might help.

It was a popular idea pre-pandemic so now with even more empty shops predicted hopefully images of these displays will be coming to an Instagram account near you soon.