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.           

Public Realm: The Grassmarket Report 4 October 2012


Public Realm: The Grassmarket
Planning Committee
4 October 2012

1 Purpose of report
1.1 To report back on the review of the Grassmarket Public Realm Project and to
provide a progress report on proposals to enhance Rose Street.

2 Summary
2.1 A before-and-after review of the impact of public realm work in the Grassmarket
has been carried out by consultants. This concluded that the project has
delivered economic and placemaking benefits and identified a number of
lessons that could be learned and applied to future public realm projects.
2.2 A framework for bringing forward public realm enhancements along Rose
Street has been coordinated by Essential Edinburgh (EE). This aims to
reinforce Rose Street as a destination, providing an enhanced pedestrian
environment that will encourage pedestrian priority, improved linkages and
increase activity.

3 Main report
The Grassmarket

3.1 In 2007, as part of the Council’s Capital Streets programme, Scottish
Enterprise and the City of Edinburgh Council commissioned consultants to
carry out a baseline survey of the Grassmarket before any improvement work
was carried out. The construction works were completed in April 2009. A follow
up study was commissioned in 2011 which has allowed before-and-after

3.2 As well as looking at hard information including the number of retail units, the
study looked at the perceptions of businesses and visitors to see how people’s
views of the Grassmarket have changed over time. It also assessed the impact
of a calendar of events that was put in place following the completion of the

3.3 Copies of the study are available in the Group rooms. The key findings are as

The Physical Environment
3.4 There is no doubt the physical environment has improved significantly. This
was recognised by the 2010 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning where the
Grassmarket won the Development on the Ground category. The shift in the
balance from a car to a pedestrian dominated space has had a significant
impact in realising the potential of the Grassmarket as a key historic space in
the city centre. It was, however, considered that, in some areas of the
Grassmarket, greater attention could be given to reducing the amount of street
clutter e.g. poles, signs, commercial waste containers.
The Business Base

3.5 When the baseline survey was carried out the retail businesses in the
Grassmarket were in a fragile state with about a quarter reporting they were
less profitable than they had been three years before. About 20% expected to
move or cease trading by the start of 2010. The follow up survey shows there
has been little change in the overall number of units (132 in 2006 and 131 in
2011) but there has been a change in status or occupancy of over a third of the
business premises. The number leaving or ceasing trading has been roughly in
line with their predictions but the number of occupied premises has also
remained the same, suggesting that demand for retail space in the
Grassmarket is steady. There has been a small but noticeable shift from shops
to restaurants over the period. The results of the post completion business
survey show high levels of confidence and optimism – markedly higher than in
2006. A large majority expect some business growth in the next three years
and that they will remain in the area. This finding is all the more positive when
viewed against the background of the current economic climate.
Residents and Visitors

3.6 A survey of residents and visitors produced generally positive results although
concerns remain among residents that issues of anti-social behaviour have not
been addressed or improved by the project. It was recognised that the project
could not directly address all anti-social behaviour issues but, by extending the
hours of table and chair licenses into the evenings, the worse excesses of antisocial
behaviour have been pushed back to later hours. There is strong
agreement that the Grassmarket is a more attractive space and that it is
cleaner and better managed. There is a feeling that the area could offer more
for families and children.

3.7 An events programme ran for 14 months during 2009/2010. Its purpose was to
demonstrate the potential of the newly created public space. This received
generally positive responses from businesses and residents. Some businesses
reported that the events had made a significant contribution to their business
and most residents thought the programme was good and that the events had
improved the image of the Grassmarket. A sharp reduction in the number of
events following the conclusion of the programme means the Grassmarket is

still not an established events venue in the city and the economic benefits are
unlikely to have been sustained.

3.8 The programme of events did not have the opportunity to become established
resulting in a delay in the generation of sustainable, long term economic
impacts. The report recommends that action be taken to reinforce the success
of the Grassmarket. This should include the development of a further
programme of events; possibly managed or coordinated by the proposed
Grassmarket Business Improvement District (BID).

3.9 An assessment of the economic value of the improvements was one of the
tasks asked of the consultants. While the benefits are difficult to quantify, it is
possible to estimate the gross value added (GVA) per employee in the sectors
represented in the Grassmarket. By comparing the present situation to one
where nothing was done, it is estimated that the gross impact of the project is
£1.4 – £4million. If additionality and displacement are taken into consideration,
this comes down to £250,000 – £500,000 per year. It was anticipated that many
benefits would result from establishing the Grassmarket as a significant events

Lessons Learned
3.10 While recognising that the Grassmarket has been a successful project, the
report identifies a number of lessons that can be learned from the process.
These are:
• The case for any new public realm projects should always encompass
environmental, community and economic benefits;
• The Council should engage with residents and stakeholders at every stage
of the process;
• Before work begins on designing a scheme, clear aims and objectives
should be set, underpinned by a performance framework;
• The impact of the construction phase should be minimised through
discussion and agreement with contractors and all stakeholders including
residents and businesses;
• The real work starts when construction is finished and this should be
reflected in an implementation plan;
• There should be agreed arrangements to ensure the legacy and benefits
are sustained.

3.11 In response to this, subsequent projects that the Council has initiated in the Old
Town such as the Royal Mile project and the City Centre Southern Arc have
adopted a process of targeted community engagement prior to the
development of any particular proposals. It is intended that potential future
projects in St Andrew Square, George Street and Leith Walk should recognise
these issues.

3.12 Finally, the report reinforces the significance of the public realm as an asset for
Edinburgh. It points to a compelling case for enhancing the city’s image and
reputation through improved public realm.

Rose Street report then follows


Avalanche best selling albums of 2014

witheredhandnewgodscover1.  Withered Hand – New Gods 

2.  Mogwai – Rave Tapes

3.  King Creosote – From Scotland With Love

4.  Owl John – Owl John

5.  PAWS – Youth Culture Forever

6.  James Yorkston – Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society

7.  The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

HJH8.   We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

9.   Hamish James Hawk – Aznavour

10. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys

11. Jack White – Lazaretto

12. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend

13. The Last Battle – Lay Your Burden Down

14. Young Fathers – Dead

15. Swans – To Be Kind

last battle lay your burden down16. Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present 

17. Bwani Junction – Tongue Of Bombie

18. Pixies – Indie Cindy

19. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

20. Aphex Twin – Syro

21. Temples – Sun Structures

22. Warpaint – Warpaint

23. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Columbia Records Leonard Cohen Popular Problems cover24. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

25. Shellac – Dude Incredible

26. Morrissey – World Peace Is none Of Your Business

27Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

28. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems

29. Beck – Morning Phase

30. Goat – Commune

Congratulations to Dan and good to see Avalanche customers weren’t the only people to rate “New Gods” so highly. A top ten entirely made up of Scottish bands was not solely a result of a Scottish shop selling Scottish bands. Just as important in the equation was whether there was an indies only version available and how much effort the bands and their labels put into selling directly to their fans. We sold 100+ of the “New Gods” gold vinyl with Dan’s support but even that did not go completely smoothly. For a short time Dan’s label Fortuna POP! decided to sell the gold vinyl at a stupidly low price and a week later were complaining they couldn’t cope with their mail order and were handing it over to their distributor Cargo. Exactly the same situation occurred with the Owl John vinyl. Great support from Scott but when his label put it on sale at what was cost price to a shop several customers asked for a refund.

The Mogwai album was  an even odder situation. As also happened with Nick Cave independents were given a bonus 7″ with their vinyl not available from the artists’ own website. After selling all their own box sets Mogwai’s label Rock Action tweeted the Avalanche link to buy which again was a great help. King Creosote had an indies only double vinyl albeit also available from Kenny’s label Domino and PAWS had a limited green vinyl available to everybody but  sold mostly by indies. James Yorkston’s vinyl had an indies only die cut sleeve and James is always very good at promoting Avalanche’s buying links. There was talk of an indies only or Scottish only Twilight Sad vinyl but in the end neither materialised and sales consequently suffered. Virtually every day fans were encouraged on social media to buy directly from their label Fat Cat. Another Fat Cat band We Were Promised Jetpacks did benefit from having an indies only limited yellow vinyl which undoubtedly helped them make the Top 10. Hamish James Hawk was the one self distributed local artist making the Top 10 with his debut album. 

The Avalanche philosophy is simple. We want to give the customer the best deal we can. We don’t want them to pay more or receive less than they can elsewhere. We don’t want them missing out because they want to support Avalanche and we don’t want to to sell to customers because they don’t realise there is a far better deal elsewhere.  If bands and labels want to go head to head with shops who have supported them sometimes for decades and take away their business so be it but make it a level playing field.

This has been going on for some time now and Avalanche’s sales aren’t always what they seem. When the previous Twilight Sad album was our best seller of the year people would rightfully point to the album launch they held in the shop week of release as certainly helping. Actually we sold 35 copies while 155 people attended. Many customers had either already bought online or at the Dunfermline gig the previous Friday. Initial sales were disappointing but we would recommend the album regularly and it was a great album so slowly the sales built up until it topped our chart at the end of the year.

As documented before when HMV and FOPP were in trouble and didn’t stock either Rick Redbeard or Conquering Animal Sound it showed how things might be. Avalanche has always been central just not as central as HMV or FOPP for the many “indie” office workers. Most also bought other things they would never find elsewhere and vowed to return but of course didn’t once things returned to normal. The situation is now exasperated as before HMV/FOPP would often run out of stock but now they are consigned the releases they can sit on as much stock as they want. In a final twist vinyl already on the way up was deemed not important enough by HMV to be stocked at all when in administration and Avalanche sold loads of copies of releases by Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro etc. Now their racks are full of vinyl they don’t have to pay for until sold.

What the chart does show is that despite all of the problems above we still sell a decent amount of Scottish artists based on our reputation. Avalanche sold as much James Yorkston and Owl John vinyl as all the Scottish HMVs and FOPPs put together in the first week. We sold 110 of the 500 copies of Frightened Rabbit’s “Pedestrian Verse” with the free 7″ and could have sold more thanks to support from Scott and the guys. Warners offered a free print with the Owl John album and registered 111 sales ! As for our market share for both PAWS albums you would be very surprised indeed !  

So what does this all mean in 2015 ? Well to a large extent sales are now completely out of our hands. Broken Records who made it to number ten in our chart went down the PledgeMusic route and as you can imagine we would have sold many more if that hadn’t been the case. The guys were very supportive and we benefited from it not being in HMV or FOPP but mostly their fans had already bought it directly. Idle wild are one of Avalanche’s top ten Scottish bands over the last thirty years but again have used PledgeMusic for the new album out in February. For comparison we had Idlewild play in the Cockburn street shop day of release for an album and sold 110 copies to the 100 people there !

What I do find odd is that bands now have no problem charging fans for simple “extras”. As a shop we would maybe get 50 signed copies of an album but would never dream of charging more. Now a £10 CD is often £12 signed but that also includes an access pass so that’s OK. With other platforms from Bandcamp to Spotify all set to encourage bands to sell directly to their hardcore fans it will be an interesting year. What nobody talks about are all the other fans. The ones who enjoy a band’s music but don’t hang on their every word. And then there are the fans just keen to hear new music. These are often the people shops deal with but what incentive is left to support bands when most of the business has been taken away ? And the situation for new bands is even worse than for shops. With a small fan base at best they struggle to ever reach a wider audience.

I’m a big fan of CMU and this is well worth reading  “Trends: The real revolution is direct-to-fan”

I also know Benji Rogers founder of PledgeMusic from his time in an indie band that played in Avalanche and we keep in touch. I know his intentions with the site are good and he wishes shops no harm. However in the same way streaming is not a viable way for bands to be paid for their music picking up the crumbs that are left after bands sell to their fans is not a viable model for a shop supporting current artists. Of course that isn’t to say shops can’t manage in other ways be that selling genres not affected by D2F, selling reissued vinyl, selling second hand or tickets or the many other ways shops are surviving. The shame is that anybody can sell a reissued Led Zeppelin album but what good indies were great at was supporting new music and looking after the fans of bands and labels they had helped get established. I fear that may be lost forever and while shops may have other options the majority of new bands starting out do not.      

Record Fair Saturday 27th December

Avalanche will be at the record fair in Cafe Camino tomorrow. Lots of well priced new vinyl including two £10 boxes and some great used vinyl £3 (4 for £10) and £5 (5 for £20).
Collectable vinyl too from Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan etc but not too pricey.

cafe camino flyer



Have a Belle & Sebastian Merry Christmas

Christmas party Peel session

Radio 1 Peel Session Christmas Special, 2002

A Christmas video if not a Christmas song

The Scottish Contemporary Pop/Rock Music Centre

Scars Associates Josef K Fire EnginesLots to come of what is wrong and what could be put right to help those established businesses that trade all year and don’t just pop up in the good times but what is the most positive idea to come from all those meetings I had ? For context firstly I discovered I inhabit the world of pop/rock if I’m talking to Edinburgh Council and contemporary music when speaking to Creative Scotland. Not a great start as it became immediately apparent that they don’t differentiate between Ed Sheeran and Withered Hand. Secondly it also became clear early on that commercial pop rock being so “popular” meant it was deemed not to need the help other less popular genres and arts needed. This seemed counter intuitive to me meaning the less popular something was the more chance it had of being supported but those already involved in this world confirmed this was exactly the case. Similarly music in general being more popular than other areas of the arts meant it again often received the short end of the stick.

shop assistants - here it comesA little further investigation and the level of imbalance became clear. Rooms the size of a decent shop dedicated to a couple of paintings or a video installation. Buildings the size of an old Virgin Megastore sparsely filled with what some call art and others in one particular case would call “a pile of old records lying on the floor”. Anyway the argument here is not about what is or isn’t art but the support and space given to all the various branches of the arts. I quickly understood what musicians, often artists themselves, saw as a disparity in support for their work. What support there is for music is very focused on the making of music while how that music reaches the public seems to be given little thought at all beyond the fact that it can be put online and then the whole world can listen !

Ballboy_-_Club_Anthems_2001Much of this resonated with my own search as to how the council, given their new found understanding of the problems facing music related businesses, could help. It also became clear that the feeling expressed at the Live Music Matters meeting in the Usher Hall that “pop/rock” lacked a voice compared to others was a very accurate assessment of the situation.

I also came to realise that there was scope for something more than simply a shop that stocked Scottish bands old and new. Many customers were as keen to talk about Josef K, Simple Minds and The Shop Assistants as they were new bands they should be If You're Feeling Sinisterlistening to and yet there was nowhere they could visit to find out more. There was no need for fancy laser shows people were interested in artwork and badges and old posters along with the history of the bands and also Scotland’s many famous labels. Olaf Furniss’ ideas about music tourism are not misplaced and as you might imagine I’ve received nothing but enthusiasm for the idea.

All those meetings and chats haven’t been wasted and both Ian Smith head of music at Creative Scotland and Stewart Henderson of Chemikal Underground and chair of the SMIA have been very supportive. Various members of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and witheredhandnewgodscoverSport department have also been very helpful and last week I met with the head of museums and galleries about the City Art Centre who promised to consider the idea while understandably having some reservations. I can think of no better location than the ground floor of the City Art Centre. It has all the space needed without disrupting the shop it already has there and the cafe next door is perfect. One reservation was that it was an art gallery and whether that would be compromised but as several people have said already it is an art centre and much of what would be on display would be the artwork used in conjunction with the music.

city-art-centre-exteriorAnother plus is all the new visitors it would attract to the centre as well as providing a visually interesting frontage. What is more I would envisage it as a gateway to all that Edinburgh has to offer in the arts with visitors being offered information on the many other places they might want to visit. I’m well aware these things are not always as simple as they may seem but I’m also aware that they are not always as complicated either ! I’m sure the idea will be given fair consideration.



So a Scottish Contemporary Pop Rock Music Centre (only with a far better name obviously) celebrating Scottish artists and labels both old and new as well as providing background on venues and clubs that have come and gone over the years. Scottish music has had a worldwide influence that should be celebrated and this would seem the perfect way to do it.

There might even be enough space to feature a few old record shops !