Kevin Buckle: Rag'n'Bone Man leaves Scots on the scrapheap
The recent announcement of Rag'n'Bone Man to headline Edinburgh's Hogmanay was an interesting one. Certainly all experience tells me visitors very much hope to see a big Scottish act headline and the more Scottish bands they can see the better.
Obviously Hogmanay is not just for tourists but while there is no doubting the popularity of this year’s album Human only six per cent of those sales were in Scotland when the average is nine per cent and a popular artist in Scotland will get well into double figures.
While The Royal Mile has gone far too far down the road of tartan tat it doesn’t do any harm to remember that people come to Edinburgh for a Scottish experience and much of what they see particularly at Christmas and New Year does not reflect that.
Many are taken aback by how “English” the Festival is though there isn’t much to be done about that. However come Christmastime I think even locals would prefer the festivities to be not just more Scottish but far more unique to compliment the unique setting.
Certainly the easiest thing to improve would be the Christmas market which has the potential to be one of the best in Europe but instead has no real identity and is an uninspiring collection of stalls. Of course people will visit the market while they are in Edinburgh and in fact it is often uncomfortably busy but should you ask how many came to Edinburgh especially for the market you would find the figure extremely low indeed.
Not only would a Scottish market with more of a vintage feel be incredibly popular it would be hard to find anything more “on trend” as those antiques programmes love to say.
I’ve no doubt the concert will be popular and the market will be busy but I’m also certain that the overall experience for visitors and locals alike could be greatly improved.
On a similar note while I’m not recommending all bands should aim to sound like the Proclaimers there is definitely a great love of the Scottish accent in all its forms worldwide and there does seem to be a growing trend in newer artists to not make the most of that.
It certainly comes through with Scottish hip hop artists, as you would expect, but with other genres, even singer songwriters, the Scottish accent regularly becomes lost.
One of Avalanche’s most successful albums was from the band There Will Be Fireworks whose self-titled first album would often sell when played in the shop before the band had even started! The reason was a fantastic spoken-word intro by the writer, poet and playwright Kevin MacNeil, who was raised in the Outer Hebrides, that set the album up beautifully and of course all importantly it then did not disappoint. Those interested to hear exactly what I mean can do so here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-0LZ8my44s
Death by a thousand cuts for high streets?
Recent walks from Haymarket towards the Grassmarket have always revealed at least one new takeaway if not more but maybe we have reached peak fast food as this week I counted not one but three new gentleman’s barber shops. All had young men with well-trimmed beards having final adjustments made to their hair.
I also spotted a social enterprise gift shop but that was closed. In fact given it was Wednesday lunchtime there were quite a few small shops closed, which is maybe another trend!
One possibility for shops especially just off the main drag is that they become cheap enough that they don’t need to be open every day or even every week and to some extent that can be seen already but that only further adds to the decline of the area as people are faced with a street that is half-closed and not the most enticing to visit.
The popularity of coffee shops and quirky takeaways has to some extent helped negate the devastating effect of so many other types of shop closing on the high street, a bit like vinyl has temporarily reduced the decline in physical sales. But should there be any movement away from the fast food culture I doubt that there is anything that could take its place and the high street as we know it would be gone forever.
That’s your Lot in the Grassmarket
Also on my travels I saw workmen in The Lot, the old converted church at the Castle end of the Grassmarket, and intrigued that finally after many years something was happening with the place went over to enquire. Certainly a fair amount of work appears to have been carried out internally but before we all get too excited it turns out it is going to be another bar and restaurant.
Of course by now it was expected that the vacant ex-council King’s Stables Road site just down from The Lot would have been completely developed rather than not even started so that is still years away, but it won’t do the Grassmarket any harm to have the building back in use again and it can only benefit when the King’s Stables Road site is also in use.
With the possibility that soon the car park further down King’s Stables Road may relocate and leave that site free there is real potential to encourage folk to use the area again and it is a shame that things are taking so long.
There is of course no guarantee that if the car park does move that there will that exciting a replacement, and you would place good money on a hotel being involved somewhere, but even if it is in the more distant future it would have to be good news for the area and certainly it would all do no harm to the fortunes of The Lot which previously has always struggled being at the end of the line for visitors to the Grassmarket.