Kevin Buckle: The silent majority must make their voices heard

We now seem to live in a world where minorities are taking the majority of decisions or the minority is seen as the majority!

Saturday, 22nd September 2018, 6:00 am
Edinburgh long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont helps launch the new Just Eat hire bikes. Picture: SWNS
Edinburgh long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont helps launch the new Just Eat hire bikes. Picture: SWNS

There is no better example of the latter than the resurgence of vinyl. Nobody would argue that vinyl is more popular now than it has been for a long time but actually compact discs are eight times more popular, something you would never guess from the media.

Most of the time when an album comes out the silent majority who still buy physical product just go about their business buying CDs mostly from HMV/FOPP, Amazon and sometimes supermarkets. Of course even those buying physical product are a minority in that sales attributed to digital bundles are twice as much.

Downloaded albums were at least comparable but now we have notional albums allowing for all the ways people listen to music by streaming but still it gives a good feel for how people consume their music. There is however no merit in music simply because of the format it is on. In fact there are some who argue that the over-emphasis on different colours of vinyl and the stress on things being signed show that what is being catered for now is not the music at all.

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Colin Stetson performs with Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and Jolie Holland at the afterparty for The Music of R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall held at City Winery in NYC.

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Mark Beaumont launches Edinburgh bike hire scheme

No great harm is caused by this exaggerated concentration on vinyl and the variations available as those CD and digital fans just need to be made aware of a release but maybe that is not the case in other areas where a minority hog all the headlines.

Interestingly, at least to me, this minority rule concept cropped up twice this week. Firstly the council’s fascination with bikes and cycling seems to get stronger every week and the launch of Just Eat cycle hire arrived with great fanfare.

There is no doubt this is a good thing assuming that people use the bikes and it will take some time for that to be clear. All the initial users on social media were keen cyclists already and clearly that is not the main target user. Those who cycle regularly will mostly continue to use their own bikes especially as the hire bikes are said to be quite slow and have basic gearing so the scheme’s success will rely on persuading new people to cycle.

The scheme is definitely targeting visitors too and it will be interesting to see if a breakdown on that is given. I’m assuming that the app will be able to recognise where people are from, which will be useful.

This is only the start and the Edinburgh City Centre Transformation project will I suspect be dominated by a collection of minority interests while I would maintain that walking, businesses and attractions are the most important factors to be considered first. I did of course cover walking in the city centre in last week’s column and it got a very positive response indeed from all sides of the debate.

This of course is not to dismiss all the other considerations, just to ask that they are all looked at in context. Jacobs Engineering Group Inc has been awarded a contract by the council to help develop the strategy, delivery plan and detailed business case for the transformation and it is clear this is something of far greater magnitude than when the Grassmarket was pedestrianised, for instance.

Jacobs describes its involvement as “a multi-million-dollar investment to improve community, economic and cultural life of one the most iconic cities in the world”. Understandably I think given the disaster to businesses during the tram works concern has already been expressed that while this City Centre Transformation could be a good thing for residents, visitors and businesses it could also be a disaster – and it will always be businesses that bear the brunt of that disaster.

Councillors and their officials will come and go and all will draw their salary whatever happens while they are in office but for local businesses poor decisions based sometimes on flawed consultations and workshops can have a devastating effect.

You would have to hope that at least, unlike the Grassmarket, the council will not abandon the transformation project as soon as it is finished, but even so it is understandable given all that has gone before that many would rather just stick with what they have.

Sometimes things may have merit but very few people care and there is no better example of that than the public inquiry currently going on into the fate of the Old Royal High. All concerned really, really care about the views to that building and as I’ve said before whenever I approach the school from the west what both sides have to say seems to belong to an alternative universe. It would be bad enough if folk were fighting to preserve something that wasn’t worth preserving or was worth the sacrifice but the determination to preserve things that only exist in their heads is frustrating.

There are of course other things including the building itself that have varying degrees of merit but you have to wonder where all these people and organisations were for all the decades it was empty and deteriorating.

Quite how the silent majority will ever get due consideration given their silence I don’t know but I suspect that with regards to the City Centre Transformation project some may find their tongue.

It’s hats off to Colin Stetson and co

There is a coup for Edinburgh when SFD: Stetson-Fox-Dunn play their only UK date at Summerhall next Saturday.

Described as post-rock/jazz/metal, post-everything avant-garde the American trio is fronted by Colin Stetson who while well known for his work with Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and The National has worked extensively on film and TV scores as well as releasing his own solo albums.

His album All This I Do For Glory was voted the best release of 2017 by BBC Radio 6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs. Described as creating a “multi-layered, Mogwai-ish wall of sound” performances often include a fair amount of improvisation.

Given that Edinburgh loses out so often with gigs hopefully this admittedly niche event will be well supported.

BID countdown is getting close

A new national hub designed to support “Improvement Districts” in Scotland was launched this week which may be of use to the proposed Old Town BID, especially as it encourages more cooperation between BIDs and public and private partners.

Some small independent businesses, however, may just see it as another layer of bureaucracy but hopefully some good will come from it given the patchy results so far.

With the Old Town BID due next April there really isn’t much time to ensure success so hopefully there will be news soon of how they intend to move forward.