Comment: Every city needs a good mix of venues

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THE closure of the Picture House is another severe blow to Edinburgh’s live music scene.

In its heyday as the Caley Palais, the old cinema played host to top acts as diverse as Queen, Hawkwind and Wishbone Ash. Many readers will have happy memories of nights spent at the Lothian Road venue.

A glance at its latest line-up, though, should be enough to silence anyone who doubts its relevance today. Gigs by Miles Kane, Rizzle Kicks and Edinburgh’s Nina Nesbitt are a great addition to the Capital’s entertainment scene.

Its closure after Hogmanay will leave thousands more music fans having to trek to Glasgow to see the bands they want to in the flesh.

Edinburgh has lost a series of similar-sized venues in recent years, including the much-loved Venue in Calton Road which is now an upmarket gallery. Thankfully, one of those much missed, La Belle Angele, is set to reopen in the New Year.

It is easy to say that these venues would not be closing if enough people were willing to pay to see the bands that they are putting on. There is some truth in that, but it is not quite so straightforward.

The huge success of the Hydro and SECC in Glasgow is proof, were it needed, that there is still demand for live music in Scotland.

The Capital is not alone in losing out. Cardiff, Bristol, Belfast, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, as well as London, have all lost significant mid-sized venues in the last year or two. The trend is for bigger venues, like the Hydro, to thrive, while those on the first rung above big pub gigs are tending to struggle.

Every city that prides itself on its cultural life needs a good mix of venues. Great as pub and stadium concerts can be, there needs to be somewhere, for instance, where upcoming bands can play after they have made their mark but when they are not ready to fill Murrayfield or Castle Esplanade.

There are, of course, ongoing talks about establishing a new music arena on development land near the airport and tram line. That would be a huge fillip to the city, but those plans need to be developed wisely if they are going to prove a hit.