Kevin Buckle: An Edinburgh night out with many lessons

Bryan Ferry came to the Capital as part of his UK tour in 2007. Picture: Julie Howden
Bryan Ferry came to the Capital as part of his UK tour in 2007. Picture: Julie Howden
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I had a rare night out in Edinburgh on Thursday and the place was buzzing on what was a lovely day.

All the eateries were busy and the tartan tat shops were still open and though, of course, you would expect other shops to be shut there were actually very few closed doors.

Walking up South Bridge, there seemed to be more locals about than normal and I realised they were heading up to see War Horse at the Festival Theatre. I was off to meet Kim Bayley, the chief executive of the Entertainment Retail Association (ERA), which actually started life as the British Association of Record Dealers but gradually expanded to include all entertainment.

ERA now has every aspect of entertainment covered from supermarkets, streaming and download companies to YouTube, Amazon and computer games while still representing HMV and most independent record shops.

Those who follow Avalanche on social media will know that I am often critical of many of these organisations, I would argue quite rightfully, but thankfully Kim has always supported healthy debate so we still remain good friends.

ERA, of course, organise Record Store Day and Kim was up to see some shops before being a guest at Wide Days 2018, the music convention held in Edinburgh. Despite her wide remit, Kim has never forgotten ERA’s roots and is very supportive of the struggle independent shops face often against other ERA members.

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As I was leaving to come home, War Horse was finishing and there was lots of excited chatter, only confirming that many were relatively local. It did make me think that in the same way there was a fear that record shops would be swamped by all those who joined ERA later, there was a similar issue between locals and the many visitors.

Getting the balance right is by no means easy and while the number of record shops may have increased a little of late they are still massively outnumbered in ERA. Things are not quite so one-sided in Edinburgh, however, and certainly it was very enjoyable seeing such a healthy mix of people on the streets on Thursday night.

My train back to West Lothian was full of slightly tipsy middle-aged folk and it quickly became clear that while several had indeed been to see War Horse, even more had been to the Bryan Ferry concert at the Usher Hall. This, of course, raises the question as to whether Edinburgh could do with one or two more venues that cater for larger audiences and the answer is undoubtedly yes. The full-time reopening of Leith Theatre is certainly a start but there is still room for at least one if not two more large venues so Edinburgh can properly compete with Glasgow.

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Of course, it should not be forgotten that there are massive issues over smaller venues in Edinburgh and I do find it worrying when those who have the power to do something about this quote the widespread support for Leith Theatre which has no relevance.

Whether it is the balance between locals and visitors or the need for more venues of all sizes, I do feel it is possible that Edinburgh could address these issues successfully and hopefully this will be done by all parties working together and considering the needs of the silent majority rather than simply reacting to the vocal minority.