Kevin Buckle: Dungeon masters guard their vested interests

Some will know of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, which given I went to a science-based university in Heriot-Watt was popular in my time there. A whole world is created and a set of rules are agreed. Players then interact with each other and those that enter their world.

Saturday, 24th November 2018, 5:00 am
Roll the 12-sided dice and see if youll get something done or just attend a consultative workshop. Picture: Getty

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the game – one I must add that I never played – but in trying to understand the various worlds I currently interact with it appears that it may very well be their basis.

Councils, arts organisations, heritage groups and residents’ groups all exist in their own worlds and large chunks of their world don’t coincide with the real world. Businesses, on the other hand, very much have to deal with the real world every day and this may explain what seems to be an increasing gap between businesses and those they have to deal with.

There is a running theme with these groups. They love workshops and consultations. They don’t care how long things take, they have to make sure they speak to everybody, or stakeholders as they like to call them, and then maybe bring in some consultants and designers.

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Going down this route something that should take weeks can literally take years. Don’t get me wrong, councils in particular need to consider the views of their constituents and businesses do employ things like focus groups to gauge opinion – but the gap in attitudes is massive.

A good example is the Wayfinding project I mentioned last week. One aim of this would be to drive more footfall towards the Grassmarket and back towards Princes Street rather than the overcrowding currently found on The Mound and Playfair Steps. However after a couple of years there is still nothing, which is not great for the businesses involved, and when speaking to them this week they couldn’t even start to guess how it could take this long.

But it turns out that a couple of years is nothing! When I was trying to find out when the project started Google gave me something from Jo Mowat. I may not share politics with Jo or even agree on some things but you can’t argue about how proactive and helpful she is, along with her fellow Green city centre councillor Claire Miller. A quick click revealed all.

“Pedestrian Wayfinding In The City Centre And The Demarcation Of The World Heritage Site Boundary” 2.1 At its meeting of 22 December 2011 the City of Edinburgh Council approved a motion by Councillor Mowat calling for a report.

Yes that is right. Jo first brought this up seven years ago.

I’m sure Edinburgh probably could cope with more visitors but maybe it should manage those it gets already in a better fashion before looking for more and to a large extent that is a matter of directing and spreading out footfall – a point dare I say Jo Mowat also made at the recent full council meeting.

While councillors may face judgement every four years or so others in other areas can happily have their workshops and consultations taking as long as they want and while no doubt trying for a good outcome bear no consequences when things all go wrong.

I know I mention the Grassmarket a lot but businesses there suffered greatly during the pedestrianisation and then even more so when nothing happened afterwards and many had to close or leave. As far as they are aware despite it now being accepted how badly handled everything was nobody involved lost their job and there was no offer of compensation to those let down. In the end businesses are just wanting accountability.

Pressure groups of course don’t directly have jobs to lose except for the few in a post but again bear no consequences for their high-handed behaviour, which often shows no consideration for both sides of an argument and no interest in the business community.

As for the arts world’s organisations they really do live in a different world and not one where making enough money to survive is part of the equation. The latest fiasco of the SMIA wanting to set up a Scottish music infrastructure, accompanied by the obligatory workshops, shows a basic lack of understanding and now they are offering to sponsor a PhD in mapping and measuring the Scottish music industry.

Having said all this, on a personal level I’m currently trying to get two lawyers to talk to each other and those guys really do live in a world of their own!

I honestly don’t think businesses are asking too much. They simply want others to not impose their ideological and sometimes daft ideas on them without facing the consequences when things go wrong. It is a reasonable request.

If it’s vinyl you like, not music, get on your bike

I’m old enough to remember when vegetarianism was quite a thing. For some it was simply a choice and that was fine but others were always trying to convert people as you might expect from a religious zealot.

Now of course, as hipsters would say, being a vegetarian is now mainstream but other things seem to have recently acquired a cult status. Cycling appears to have come from nowhere after decades of low-level support and the jury is out on whether such a healthy pastime has a healthy following in all senses of the word or has become a cult.

However one thing that has crossed the line in my opinion is vinyl. Social media is full of people returning home with a bag full of vinyl with no mention of what albums they have actually bought. It has to be about the music.

I genuinely do not understand what people are thinking when they talk about vinyl without mentioning not just what music they have bought but what else maybe made them buy it, be that possibly the artwork – which for vinyl is an important part – or something else.

Of course for many now cycling to buy their vinyl has to be the way to go!

Scott’s healing songs will endure

It was Scott Hutchison’s birthday this week and had he lived he would have been 37. I last spoke to Scott in Glasgow a year ago when he offered the original artwork for the Frightened Rabbit album Midnight Organ Fight, which actually ended up with the Rip It Up exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.

However I always remember our last conversation in the Grassmarket shop as we talked about sad songs and which was the saddest. I’d thought of picking ten sad songs and getting ten of my favourite singers to sing them. Scott headed a wish list along with James from Twilight Sad, Dan from Withered Hand, Aidan Moffat, Neil from Meursault and Gordon from Ballboy.

Asked for my saddest song he was surprised at my choice: the nineties hit Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something.

Asked to justify this I explained it was about a guy desperate for a relationship not to end. “You’ll say we’ve got nothing in common,” it starts. He then goes on to cling to the fact that both liking the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s is “the one thing we’ve got”. I’d never seen that, said Scott.

While there has been much discussion about mental illness and Scott’s struggles it should be remembered that in articulating the sadness of a relationship breaking up so well he helped many get over things, move on and find new happiness and that should never be forgotten.