Let's put our local artists in the shop window - Kevin Buckle

I had an interesting chat this week with the Edinburgh artist Michael McVeigh, who some of you may remember from his stall in Rose Street.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 7:00 am
Michael McVeigh's atmospheric interior of Bennets bar in Leven Street

Unfortunately Michael had to vacate his spot when building work was being done and of course has had no chance to return during the pandemic.

I had discovered his work on social media just after he left Rose Street so had had no chance to speak to him until I discovered his phone number on his website and after a long talk he said he would pop into the shop.

I hadn’t realised Michael has been selling his work on the streets since he left art school in the eighties and it was interesting to hear how much he enjoyed the chance to chat to people about the paintings and prints he sells.

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The Birds, The Bees, The Butterflies And The Berries (Detail 1) by Gerry Gapinski

By coincidence Waverley Mall reopened with a Gerry Gapinski exhibition in the windows of the Waverley Bridge shop Oasis left recently and he too is known for enjoying selling his work on the street.

I know from my time at the Tron Kirk arts market that getting people to enter a building is not as easy as you might think while being on the street is far more immediate.

The Royal Mile has of course had artists selling their wares since the days of the Luckenbooths and it has to be hoped the council’s determination to remove street clutter of all kinds does not put an end to stalls on the High Street.

It also has to be hoped that the council starts to differentiate between local artists and those selling cheap imported jewellery.

I’m told street licences won’t be considered until October, though there is a chance that may be brought forward. It really shouldn’t be underestimated how hard the pandemic has hit artists not just financially but mentally too and it would seem to make sense to make a limited number of pitches available sooner rather than later.

There may of course be other possibilities given all the empty premises in the city centre but that would take some cooperation between the council, Essential Edinburgh and the shop owners so I’m not holding my breath.

Having said that, there is no doubt Roddy Smith, the CEO of Essential Edinburgh, is keen to improve the look of the city centre and the council must realise soon that there is more to bringing people back into town than the Saint James Quarter and the Johnnie Walker Centre.

With celebrity fans such as Ian Rankin on his side hopefully Michael McVeigh will be given the chance to return to Rose Street soon or at least somewhere close by if not by the council then Essential Edinburgh. Edinburgh Council are keen to get the Festival back and support organisations but often individuals fall between the cracks.

If it is any help Michael tells me he cycles everywhere too.

You can view Michael’s work at www.michael-mcveigh.co.uk and Gerry’s at www.gerrygapinski.com