Ideas to help local business pop up everywhere - Kevin Buckle

Much excitement this week in some quarters with the announcement of MultiStory, billed as a brand new festival hub with ‘gateway’ funding from Edinburgh City Council, EventScotland and the Scottish government.

The MultiStory performance venue at Castle Terrace
The MultiStory performance venue at Castle Terrace

The blurb states – “This Fringe, Gilded Balloon, ZOO, Traverse and Dance Base are collaborating to bring MultiStory, a brand-new festival hub, to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time ever! Based in the city centre at the NCP Castle Terrace Car Park, MultiStory will host comedy, theatre, dance, family, music and poetry performances from 6-30 August. Plus local food and bev stalls from some of your Edinburgh faves!”

It is that last bit that worries me. These events are always portrayed as helping local businesses but from a shop view point they are normally busy at the very time shops are closed but more importantly who are these local stalls providing the food and drink.

One thing you can be fairly sure of is that by local they don’t mean the hospitality will be provided from businesses nearby. During the lockdown these businesses that specialise in pop up food and drink did suffer of course but they didn’t have the rents and wages to pay that has driven many pubs and restaurants to the brink of collapse.

As with the Christmas market and any other pop up events the idea that the fair thing to do is to offer local businesses the first option to be involved completely misses the point.

These businesses already have premises and already employ staff. They don’t need to incur further overheads.

Speaking of the Christmas market that will be the next thing the council will need to decide on. Again bringing in visitors with attractions can only be a good thing if hopefully that is allowable at Christmas but as soon as you start allowing pop ups to cream off their spending as well the idea that this is done to support local businesses goes out of the window.

The problem that runs throughout council decisions is that there is a complete lack of understanding.

It was interesting to read in this paper the comments given by various business leaders and the council on the current predicament of Princes Street.

All were very positive about the new St James Quarter and the forthcoming Johnnie Walker Centre and to some extent understandably so.

However, when the manager of Urban Outfitters in the West End was asked his opinion a view from the coalface was given – “Many retailers think the arrival of St James means Princes Street is now dead.

“Johnnie Walker is great – it will bring people down this end of the street, but it’s a completely different clientele from my customers. I can’t see it having major effect on my trade. It’s always good when something opens, it brings new traffic – but whether it’s relevant traffic to you is the thing.”

And therein lies the point. Even if the council do make an attempt to think about business everybody is lumped in together. It is the same with hospitality and when it comes to these council and government funded events those most in need may not only not be helped but actually be put at a disadvantage.