End of an era as Helios Fountain announces closure

Helios Fountain closingMy old neighbour in the Grassmarket Jos at Helios fountain has today announced that the shop will be closing. A fountain of knowledge with over 30 years in the Grassmarket Jos was always very good to me and though I’ve known the news for quite some time it is still sad now the news is finally public. I would urge everybody to pay one last visit and support their closing down sale.

It is of course a massive blow to the Grassmarket’s footfall but you will be relieved to know that at least there will not be a second tartan tat shop appearing. I can’t say just yet who will be moving in but some of you will be very excited indeed. There will not I should stress be an Avalanche comeback !

Again many thanks and my best wishes to Jos and all the staff I got to know so well.   

King’s Stables Road

king's stables road outlineJust a quick update as many of you have been asking. The wining bidder as was announced has plans for student flats. Representatives of Peveril Securities did ask to meet with me and I was happy to oblige. Given all I was told by Edinburgh Council I find their plans perplexing but as things stand they tell me they have no concrete ideas for an arts complex just a commitment to build one after consultation. Retail seems to consist of a cafe within the “arts complex” and the “attraction” that the council made so much of for now seems to be forgotten.

The accompanying hotel I’m told could be anything as again they will go to the market for a best offer but everybody I have consulted sees it as being a budget hotel something I know will be unacceptable to many. They have other meetings in the coming weeks and it only seems reasonable to wait for those to have taken place before making any further comment.

For those wondering why their bid was accepted ahead of others I can say I have it on very good authority they offered a considerable amount more than any other bidder something that in itself I would have expected Edinburgh Council to find a little odd given how competitive the bidding was. It might be concluded that they could only make such an offer by ignoring some of the less profitable areas required in the bidding process.

Record Store Day 2015

RSD 2015We won’t be taking part in Record Store Day this year. Labels had asked that shops were open for trading  on January 30th and by a massive coincidence this was the date we had planned to open a new shop. I had been offered a shop in the New Town as the proprietor had to start a new job at the beginning of February hence the start date which was perfect timing. The start date was however put back at the very last minute to mid March and then finally to the end of April. At the same time I was still looking at the Tron which was originally only planned to the end of July and intended to open in both. Quickly the Tron looked like it would become a more permanent fixture until we have reached the situation now in which I’m happy with the Tron Church’s future plans and will not currently look for any other location.

I’d been advised to explain the situation to the labels given we had only not been open on the 30th due to circumstances beyond our control and had in fact been open in the Tron by mid February. Most came back very happy for Avalanche to be included though there was one naysayer who contacted the organisers directly. However after their own consultations the organisers decided an exception could not be made as otherwise it would open the floodgates for other latecomers to ask for inclusion. When I asked how many others had in fact registered on time as we had done but without having premises open by the date the answer was one ! Beatnik in Altrincham, already again sadly closed, had in fact in a previous year been allowed to take part despite opening on Record Store Day.

Given this year’s list is more dubious than ever my main disappointment was that I was looking forward to putting on some great entertainment in the Tron Church. To be fair RSD did offer to publicise any events we put on as part of the celebrations but without stock it seemed pointless and more importantly would only cause confusion. I had had to inform all those who had offered to supply RSD stock that it wouldn’t be possible after the organiser’s ruling.

It does of course leave me free to comment on RSD which is something I’m regularly asked to do but I will leave that for another time. Apologies !

Gerry Gapinski at Tron Church

gg auldNext to me in Tron church is Gerry Gapinski who as well as making jewellery from broken watch parts also has amazing pictures of Edinburgh made from different pictures of famous buildings he has taken and then photoshopped together into one image.

They were dome to complement a graphic novel still to be written and they certainly have an eerie quality. More images are available here


Avalanche @ Tron Church

tron kirkJust in case anybody has missed the news Avalanche is now back open seven days a week in the heart of Edinburgh at Tron Church which recently opened as a cafe and record shop with a small selection of very fine arts stalls. Scottish produce is also available. 

We are carrying  both new and used vinyl, posters (including the large fly posters) and our usual selection of local band CDs. There is also a small selection of new and used CDs.

There are four boxes of LPs at £5 (4 for £20), a vast selection covering all genres of LPs at £3 (4 for £10) and five boxes of dance 12″s constanntly being added to as space permits (I have a lot still to go out).

There is a great selection of posters from the ever popular Arctic Monkeys, Frightened Rabbit, Pixies, Oasis etc and I’ve two more deliveries expected soon with posters covering the last year’s releases. 

We are open 10am to 6pm every day except Sundays when opening is slightly later at 11am.

King’s Stables Road update via twitter

king's stables road outlineSome of you may have seen my comments about the sale of the King’s Stables Road site in @edinburghpaper though nothing is online yet.

There really doesn’t seem to be any detail + the wording tends to imply that there is as yet no firm plans just commitment to retail + arts.

If I hear more I will of course let people know. Traders I spoke to were understandably suspicious when there has been such lack of contact.

Certainly there needs to be an investment in @GrassmarketEdin area beyond confines of KSR site if it is to be a successs + footfall improve.

One property site reports KSR sold for £17.5M way beyond @Edinburgh_CC estimate.

Of course with such a huge price tag buyers will be looking to maximise their return which is never good for arts or even interesting retail.

Having said all that until there is more detail it would not be right to make any judgement. While slow off mark to consult that may change.

Understandably there are worries about a firm contractor led and not localy based who failed to even consult with @GrassmarketEdin

At best the winning bidder Peveril has some catching up to do building bridges with local businesses and the surrounding community.

King’s Stables Road proposals

king's stables road outlineThis is what I understand to be the possibilities for the site. Obviously the developer has far more exciting details than I can give but in relation to the retail/arts side of things and helpng with the footfall problems that I have been consulted on (as has the Grassmarket BID) I’m obviously aware of more detail. Sorry for such a late reveal but despite other developers showing little interest the worry was always they would simply steal the ideas. It has come a long way from that first opinion piece in The Evening News but I hope you agree it looks amazing. We just have to hope Edinburgh Council agree and don’t make it all about the money. 
Quirky designer hotel in keeping with the arts feel of the place.
Accommodation aimed at post grads, lecturers etc and again with an arts/design feel
Artist studios and exhibition spaces built in consultation with ECA and others needs
Quality indoor arts/food market open at least several days a week – possible performance space when not in use
Courtyard with Edinburgh’s best street food traders at certain times
Record shop, cafe and Scottish bookshop featuring Scottish authors and books about Scotland.
A quality “name” restaurant
Marketing of the new site as an arts and cultural quarter as part of a wider arts hub
Stables to draw on the history of the Grassmarket both as a horse market and as a jousting area. Carriage rides both around the Grassmarket and Princes Street Gardens. This very much fulfills the council’s wish to have “attractions”.
Site will be in use both day and night keeping the place vibrant
Dozens of job opportunities and dramatic improvement in footfall
Front of building opened up making KSR an attractive and well lit thoroughfare between Grasmarket and Lothian Road/Princes Street
Any businesses introduced will be in consultation with what the Grassmarket already offers
Site will be secured immediately while planning is applied for over the following year. This will enable pop ups and other events to take place bringing life to the place immediately.
Other Grassmarket events to be supported so that by the time the site is up and running (probably 2017) vibrancy will have already returned to the Grassmarket
As for Harry Potter in The Evening News. All I can imagine is I suggested to Edinburgh Council a while ago a literary trail up King’s Stables Road with questions on Scottish books and authors. Who could resist answering a Rebus question next to the graveyard or a Harry Potter question under the castle. Somehow this may via chinese whispers have turned into a Harry Potter tour something that would of course need the permission of both JKR and Warner Brothers. 

Cooperation not competition is needed in Edinburgh

edinburgh lights 2014 useTalk of Old Town businesses joining together to compete with the undoubted power of those within the Essential Edinburgh BID especially at Christmas and New Year in my mind is to miss the point. What then about the West End, Stockbridge, Leith etc ? Surely the point should be that there is one concerted effort especially at these key times of the year to encourage people to visit all the places Edinburgh has to offer.

A rethink is also needed as to whether those stalls/businesses allowed to trade in Edinburgh just at these key times actually bring in additional visitors or simply relieve them of monies that would have otherwise been spent with businesses trading 52 weeks a year. I can’t imagine many folk come to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile especially for the jewellery stalls ! Attractions are needed for sure and extra food stalls if organisers are sure surrounding businesses wouldn’t be able to cope but otherwise established shops should be benefiting from visitors.

The tram works didn’t just affect the core of the city centre but all the city centre businesses as people just stopped coming into town completely. Now there is great emphasis understandably on getting people back to Princes Street but many have lost the habit of shopping further afield and youngsters who at one time would trail all around the wider city centre never even think to venture further.

Surely it makes sense for areas not to compete with each other for visitors but work together. I do wonder with all those stalls in Princes Street Gardens why each area isn’t given its own stall to let people know that Edinburgh has far more to offer than what can be seen from Princes Street. Surely with the vast sums spent attracting people to Princes Street and St Andrew Square they aren’t afraid of a little competition !    

Avalanche updates

avalanche-logo-use NMEFirstly it looks like we have run out of options in the Grassmarket. The shop next to Espionage is not available so that really is that. Obviously we can now cast our net wider and more importantly find somewhere that is rates free. I have been offered a shop but I’m still open to any ideas that are put to me this week.

As for the City Art Centre and the idea of somwhere showcasing the history of Scottish music that has been an incredibly popular idea. It was suggested the best way forward was to ask for a trial to show king's stables road outlinewhat could be done but so far I am yet to get a reply. 

My understanding with the King’s Stables Road site is that the council will make a decision in the middle of February. Once all the final submissions are in this month I should be able to say more about what is proposed at least by the developer I have been speaking to. It is hard to gauge what other things are on offer for the site as despite  the council saying consulting with the community was of great importance I’m led to understand that no other developer has been in touch.

So at least our ideas are attached to a developer’s bid that involves a sizeable arts and community element and has involved consultation with others in the area. Anything than that I can’t really say but hopefully more soon.

There is so much that could be done to promote Scottish music and one thing that became clear talking to Creative Scotland and the SMIA is that promoting Scotland on a regular basis is not their job ! Certainly industry events will be attended but the day to day grind of promoting Scotland’s artists that is not for them. More emphasis also seems to be placed on “international” profile than simply being known in the rest of the UK. Oddly this is mirrored with business organisations all  more interested in export than any consolidation at home. Anyway I sent them my ideas and will make them public soon once I have had their comments.

This has all dragged on far longer than I expected and even the King’s Stables Road site was meant to be decided on by Christmas. I’ll be very disappointed if everything now isn’t settled within the month.   

A short Avalanche update

victoria streetThe saga continues ! A decision on the King’s Stables Road site will now be made mid February. Initially a separate issue to Avalanche reopening the ongoing issues with the Grassmarket and in particular its footfall means that it is now the key to turning things around. With news that footfall in November was down 17.6% year on year when last year wasn’t good it has to become a serious factor in our plans. At the same time I truly believe the Grassmarket can be revitalised given a chance.

I thought there was a great compromise in offering to take over when Analogue Books left. It would have given us a base/HQ I would have been happy to keep on whatever else transpired. However that hasn’t worked out and left us with one last throw of the dice before I look at something completely different. With footfall up slightly on the Royal Mile but down so dramatically in the Grassmarket it is clear that people are not too far away. At the same time nobody understands more or has fought harder to bring people back to the Grassmarket.

As a consequence others have returned to the owners of Espionage given the shop we looked at next door is still empty to see if the premises can now be made available even for a short time. The idea is not only would it give Avalanche a place to sell off a lot of the great stock we have but it could also be used as a gateway to the Grassmarket promoting all that the Greater Grassmarket (as the larger area is called) has to offer.  There was a similar idea for the police box at the bottom of the street to be used to promote the area but sadly that was sold to another party.

While it is not expected to have the King’s Stables Road site fully functioning until 2017 there is much that can be done in the interim depending on whose bid is successful. On the other hand there is a possibility the site could simply be left dormant for a year while planning is approved and that would be a year too long for businesses in the Grassmarket. Even after that the place could just be a building site for another year. Consequently returning for a short time while things become clearer is a great solution for Avalanche.

I would hope to know more later in the week. Otherwise there is a positive but very different way forward I will need to explore.