Regular readers will know I’ve been working on a Scottish music centre of some description for more than three years now, with “of some description” being an accurate summary of what it might be called.
Contemporary and rock and pop are the terms often used but the Scottish Contemporary Rock and Pop Centre was a bit of a mouthful. We started with a working title of The History of Scottish Music Centre and my thought had been to add a byline to make things clearer, so for instance those looking for traditional folk were not disappointed. That needs a centre in its own right! However as time went on it became clear simply Scottish Pop Music got over the right message.
Also after the great success of the Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition it was felt the exhibition side of things should be in the name and so we have it – The Scottish Pop Music Exhibition Centre. Not saying it won’t be tweaked again but I’m happy with it just now.
I’m hugely disappointed not to have found a space for the Festival as we had a great number of inquiries but the idea was really reliant on the council’s commitment to support music in the city centre and the delayed administration meant time was just too tight. Having said that, there have been some very positive noises from council officials so it does look like Edinburgh Council have not forgotten their promises.
What the centre consists of will clearly depend on funds and the building but in all its glory it would have a shop, an advice drop-in centre, distribution for Scottish artists, a label, a venue or in-store space, a website promoting Scottish music and possibly the ubiquitous cafe.
I’m particularly keen on a place bands can just drop into to ask advice without needing to book a meeting with a mentor or sign up to a workshop. This may work in other areas but it is not the best way to help musicians. While I would expect most inquiries to come from younger folk we would never turn away a 26 year old because we had signed up to some under-25s scheme.
Certainly artists often seem to flourish in their mid- to late-twenties and early-thirties when they actually have some life experiences behind them and maybe sometimes “the youth” would be better left to their own devices and to learn from their mistakes. Certainly access to information has never been easier so advice needed can often be quite specific rather than something that can be looked up online.
There are many people I’m still yet to contact who I know will be a great help in the future should they care to get involved but even now I have enough to be confident that whatever the size of any future centre it can be filled with amazing items of interest. The last Fruitmarket exhibition has raised three serious inquiries from museums and galleries looking to use exhibits featured and interest from the States and Europe to host the exhibition.
Fantastic as all this sounds we are totally struggling on the funding side of things. It is little consolation that we are not alone in this and if I had a pound for every time somebody said there must be some wealthy music lovers out there who could help I would have the funding needed!
Now is the time to step up if people really do want this as much as everybody says and while indeed there will be some big announcements over the next month or two that will strengthen the case for the centre even more I do honestly believe enough has been done already.
Whatever lottery or council funding might be available, it always helps to have funding from the public or businesses too as they are far more likely to match funds than finance a project in its entirety.
I have bankrolled the idea so far just to reach this point to the tune of a large five-figure sum and spent well over a thousand hours in research and contacting people and while I don’t expect to get that back I do think it is time others picked up the baton. The groundwork is now complete but there is still a huge amount to be done that without finance cannot be completed.
It is a relief to be working to a timetable that I know has to be adhered to rather than the last three years that has been very open ended and with no guarantee of success. Without the help of many others such a wide remit could never have been attempted and after the Fruitmarket exhibition there was definitely a sense that yes this could be done. I am certainly not the only person to have given up their time, I should add.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the finishing line is in sight and every other appropriate cliché is in place. I’m always happy to discuss future plans with with anybody who would like to be involved.
As always I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
So where exactly should we send all these ‘cool’ customers descending on city?
It was interesting to hear the idea about starting the Festival in July. One of the things that used to be obvious was that people would clearly come to Edinburgh in July and then September because it was so much cheaper than August.
Several years ago now, while Avalanche was in the Grassmarket, we started getting people in who had booked last-minute weekend breaks very cheaply and arrived in Edinburgh in August completely unaware there was a Festival on. This had previously been unheard of.
Then last year when we were in St Mary’s Street with a couple of hotels nearby it was common for people to comment that they had not only got cheap accommodation but also cheap travel. Some were well aware of the Festival, others were surprised.
What was clear was that certainly there were enough budget hotels if nothing else to cater for all those deliberately coming in August and that they still had room to spare. I should say this also appeared to be the position at Christmas and New Year.
When I hear of so many other hotels being built I really do wonder if there will be the demand for any except those at the high-end and even they will need to convince visitors that there is more to Edinburgh than streets paved with tartan and unimpressive market stalls.
I would regularly get asked where the “cool quarter” was in Edinburgh. Of course the irony in the Grassmarket was that we had moved there in an attempt to create just such an area in the heart of the city with other great shops like Armstrongs vintage clothing emporium and the now sadly closed Analogue bookshop. Not to forget of course Avalanche’s neighbours at the time, Helios Fountain, now also closed, and Red Dog Music the guitar and instrument shop.
That plan of course floundered when the council pulled all funding after going to the expense of pedestrianising the place. High hopes that King’s Stables Road might become the start of an arts hub also ended when the council awarded it to developers with no arts centre plans. Even worse, a development that I was told could not afford delay has not even started years later.
No doubt what these people are looking for in a “cool quarter” may soon be found in Leith but it is certainly not the finished article yet and while the Grassmarket idea was very central Leith will require more of an effort.
Whether it is attracting high-end visitors, arts tourists or indeed high-end arts tourists I see little understanding of what is needed from those who promote Edinburgh to the wider world. They of course disagree, but they would wouldn’t they?