Hot on the heels of the wise family of Verona in my column a few weeks ago who saw little wrong with Edinburgh I had a long conversation with a family from Copenhagen.
Now normally I would worry I was just repeating myself but not only did this family have a lot to add but many councillors and council officials worship at the altar of Copenhagen so to actually get the views of the people of that city as well as their thoughts on how their city is perceived was a valuable lesson.
Initially a young lad had bought one of Armstrong’s shirts in the shop and mentioned he was visiting from Copenhagen. However, later he brought his family to the shop and his mum was very keen on the heavy knit ladies’ white pullovers, explaining they would easily cost three times as much in Copenhagen.
The first thing that became apparent is that Copenhagen is a very expensive place to visit, live in and do business in. The people there certainly have thought for the benefits of active travel but the make-up of the roads has played a big part in past choices, I was told. Not unlike Edinburgh there are lots of narrow streets and cobblestones but not they said as many open spaces.
As with Edinburgh there are more and more hotels, cafes and restaurants but I asked was there any equivalent to the tartan tat shops. They laughed, knowing exactly what I meant, and said yes “we have too many furniture shops”.
They clearly loved their city but said that while over-tourism was not yet a big problem there was now a word currently in use that expressed what might become an issue and that was “hygge”.
Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. While this sounds all well and good there is a feeling that maybe soon a line may be crossed and cosiness may become a boring dullness.
Clearly there is much to be learnt from other cities but Edinburgh should accept that others come to what is a wonderful city and see little that needs changing. The Copenhagen family in particular saw great diversity in Edinburgh compared to some cities that have great architecture but can be something of a one-trick pony. While we hear a lot about Copenhagen’s success with getting people on their bikes the city does also have a successful retail sector, albeit one that could be more diverse. Meanwhile in Edinburgh Princes Street is becoming something of an embarrassment. While comment is made about the tartan tat shops they mask the problem rather than being the problem.
The tat shops exist in places that cannot be rented out under normal market conditions and would have to leave if other businesses could be found to take their place but currently that is not looking likely.
I’m aware Edinburgh Council intends to change its policy on what can and cannot exist on Princes Street and the new St James Centre has made it focus even more on the changes that are needed. Hopefully the council won’t just rely on change of use but also look at how Princes Street can remain a shopping street.
Obviously there are worse things for a city to be called than cosy but Edinburgh should possibly be aiming for something a little more vibrant.
You should go see this, but nobody’s twisting your arm
Next Friday, April 5, the Filmhouse is showing a film detailing the definitive story of the Wedding Present’s classic first album, George Best.
The film, Something Left Behind is followed by a Q&A with director Andrew Jezard and David Gedge, the lead singer of the Wedding Present.
I have put on very few gigs in my time but I was responsible for the Wedding Present playing Edinburgh University’s Potterrow the Friday before the album was released that Monday. I had been asked by the university to choose three of Edinburgh’s bigger local bands to play on the Friday of Fresher’s Week and a couple of weeks before the gig was due to take place I received a call from the band’s management asking if there was any chance they could be added to the bill.
Clearly some explanation was needed and it turned out they had been due to play The Venue in Calton Road but had been accidentally double booked with Australian band The Triffids and had been the unlucky losers in the matter.
Offering to play at their lowest rate the university got a bargain, the band had somewhere to play and the freshers were mightily impressed that they were playing just as the album came out to great acclaim. It was a great gig but sadly for those excited freshers not something that would be repeated again that year.
n The film starts at 4.30pm. Tickets from the Filmhouse box office.
Long delays at Waverley
Exciting plans were announced this week for Waverley Station and there is no doubt that with the number of passengers increasing every year and expected to double over the next 30 years that extensive work is needed.
Possibly the most controversial element is a new raised mezzanine level accessed from Waverley Bridge and needing the roof to be raised. It is, of course, no surprise that Edinburgh World Heritage and the Cockburn Association have found much to find fault with in the plans.
The Grade A-listed ticket hall which is the most obvious part of the station that people would agree needs to remain untouched would indeed be made a central feature. The roof, however, which was refurbished in 2012 may be of interest to some but would generally I would imagine be seen as worth sacrificing for the greater good.
What has already caused some consternation given the relative speed that stations in London have seen major works completed is that work is not expected to start for another five years and the whole project is expected to not finish for 30 years. By then of course the city centre will only be home to cyclists and trams.