Apologies for the lengthy silence but there really has been nothing to report. The council given the large number of bids took longer than expected to announce a short list and to be honest given this is a multi million pound deal I was concerned given that bids are confidential what I could and couldn’t say. I will always try to be as open as possible but without compromising the bidding process. I have to say the council have been very understanding and helpful given obviously I have an interest in what is happening while not actually being one of the bidders.
Having said that as I said before the hope was that the ideas in the Evening News opinion piece would be adopted by some of the developers and hopefully would still be in play once the short list was announced. As it transpired one developer in particular embraced the idea of the arts quarter wholeheartedly and has been extremely helpful. Others admitted they would tag on the idea to help win the bid but clearly their heart wasn’t in it. At the same time I brought in Tom Watton who has a lengthy CV when dealing with arts projects. Some of you may know him from Beltane Fire but his latest project was the recently finished St Margaret’s House near Meadowbank now home to 200 studios and 9,000 square feet of gallery space. Tom’s addition meant I was confident we had all bases covered when it came to being a credible part of any bid especially given deliverability is an important part of the process.
I’m now able to report that with the short list announced we are still in the running and an announcement will be made to a preferred bidder early in the new year. I doubt there will be much more to add until a final decision is made. Obviously if the bidder we are aligned with is successful then we will be in a position to consult with everybody as to the specifics of what can be done. Otherwise there will still be a public consultation process as it goes through planning and people will be able to have their say then.
With support from local residents and charities and various arts organisations amongst others and with many of our ideas shared by the Grassmarket BID we can just keep our fingers crossed and hope the bid is successful. I certainly don’t think we could have done any more.
1. 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. Jack White – Lazaretto
8. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling
9. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
10. Hamish James Hawk – Aznavour
11. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys
12. The Phantom Band – Strange Friend
13. Young Fathers – Dead
14. Bwani Junction – Tongue Of Bombie
15. Remember Remember – Forgetting The Present
Some of you will remember that at the same time I took the break in the lease in our Grassmarket shop Edinburgh Council declared their support for keeping music industry related businesses in the city centre given that these days promoting music be that in shops or through gigs was not sustainable given the costs of the city centre. They looked to similar projects in New York and Sydney that had been very successful supporting shops, gigs and other music related projects. I was interviewed for the Evening News and of course was later asked to write an opinion piece about a new arts quarter in King’s Stables Road.
Promoting music in a shop is now very different from selling music in a shop. Without a doubt with so much music now available people are still looking to shops for advice but these days the most likely outcome is they will go away and stream or possibly if they like what they hear enough buy from the band. Very few indeed will return to the shop or buy from their website. Contrary to what some now seem to think the reluctance of shops these days to spend time promoting new music has nothing to do with “punishing” bands for selling themselves and all to do with it simply not being financially viable given a shop’s overheads.
Of course without the pressing need to cover overheads it would be a different story. Creative Scotland long ago ruled out giving grants to shops to help them support new music considering that was “our job” but again I recently received a phone call from their head of music suggesting a meeting and requesting an agenda as they rethink their whole approach. So much money is spent helping musicians make music and almost nothing on getting that music to the public. Promoting music isn’t about selling Pink Floyd albums or indeed Nick Cave vinyl reissues but about making people aware of music they otherwise would not have come across. That takes time and even in the day when people bought the music the time spent was often more costly than the money made. In these days of social media shops potentially have an even more influential role to play.
Anyway Edinburgh Council were unlikely to have entire buildings to just give over especially as a city centre location was important but they might have space in one of their many buildings already in use. I asked around for ideas and the City Art Centre cropped up again and again. The ground floor already had a gift shop if not that exciting and of course the cafe was next door. There was talk of a revamp as the wall currently blocking the view of the gift shop wasn’t popular. There was potential to make the ground floor something quite exciting promoting both artists work for sale and Scottish music. I wasn’t sure what the position would be about playing music but otherwise the location and space was perfect.
Aware it was important I speak to the right person they were indeed identified and a meeting was agreed. This in itself I was assured was promising. Waiting three weeks wasn’t great but I had a flood of positive feedback for the idea so decided it was worth it. Unfortunately at the meeting there was little discussion about the possibilities. I was asked if I wanted to sell stuff because if so that would clash with the shop they already had. Despite all the details being in the email they’d received they admitted they had no idea who I was ! This to put it mildly was more than disappointing.
To be honest I can’t think of a better idea and it makes me just want to go to Plan B which was to simply set up a base people could visit. A sort of HQ more than a small shop but with a decent selection of things on sale. A while ago Analogue Books told me they were closing which is very sad news indeed and a another great loss to the Grassmarket area. Only now they have gone public can I say that I did consider it for an HQ and indeed they have said they will put in a good word for me if needed when they leave. I can imagine there will be a lot of interest in a small place like that so certainly there is no guarantees there. The key thing with any relatively small place is that no rates are due and that in these times makes all the difference.
I have a wide range of other projects I could pursue all music related in some way but without facing direct competition from HMV and FOPP. Competing with the terms they are given is one battle I certainly can’t win. I’ve no idea as yet what involvement I’ll have in the King’s Stables Road site but that should become a lot clearer very soon. Again given the arts quarter idea it is a pity the City Arts Centre couldn’t be used to support more of the arts. Also given how central it is it could also be used to direct people to all the other fantastic arts related locations in the city. After only a little investigation I do find Edinburgh’s approach to the arts bemusing. Even the social media side of things given all the buildings they own could be improved dramatically with little effort and at no cost at all barring maybe some man hours.
So again a case of what might have been. It is a shame given the incredible enthusiasm there was from so many different people some directly involved with the City Arts Centre and I was after all reacting to a council initiative but clearly that was not enough.
Avalanche will be guests of G-TEC in the Grassmarket from 10am to 4pm with a great selection of new and used vinyl and CDs. We’ll also have a few new posters !
We will have all the latest reissues from Belle & Sebastian, Nick Cave. Modest Mouse etc at great prices as well as new releases from We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad and Half Man Half Biscuit along with others.
I’ve also a great collection of used vinyl from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Beefheart, Dylan, Zappa, Stones, Neil Young + Van Morrison ready for tomorrow.
On top of that there is a fantastic box of new vinyl all at £10 from Bright Eyes. Owl John, Nirvana, Edwyn Collins, Silver Jews, Spacemen 3 plus many more.
A big thank you to Simon at G-TEC for the space and of course if you have any mobile phones or laptops that need fixing look no further !
So a few people have asked if we are opening in Victoria Street and there was a plan but sadly it’s not happening . It had been suggested to me that the shop next to and belonging to Espionage would be free at least for a while and it was to be honest perfect as I could have cleared off a lot of the great stock I’ve sorted out and then had time to plan further. We might even have stayed ! It falls within the Grassmarket BID and they had kindly been looking into it for me while I was busy with the King’s Stables Road site. I have been let down a lot over the last year or so but in this case I have to stress this was just an idea that looked like it might work perfectly for both parties but unfortunately the timing simply wasn’t right in the end for Espionage and it wasn’t possible. I really am gutted simply because it was such a perfect fit.
As seems to happen these days I had another amazing suggestion the day before I found out and I’ll investigate that further tomorrow and then discuss more the following week but time is marching on and I was sure I would be open by now. I could do a few pop ups but I’d really like to do more than that and also it simply isn’t feasible to do anything outside where stock might get wet/damaged. I need a secure space and reasonable footfall so not asking much ! Any ideas do get in touch. Everything else of course is going very well indeed and hopefully in two years time we will have a lovely indoor market in King’s Stables Road and no worry about the weather.
I had stocked up with vinyl ready for opening this month so I’m now having a mini sale with great stuff at great prices just to keep some money coming in. Please buy stuff !
Vinyl A to Z
CD A to Z
Many thanks for all the kind comments. It never ceases to amaze me when people based abroad buy something on Discogs and say they were in the shop many years ago and want to keep supporting now. Very kind !
I was shown round the King’s Stables Road site on Tuesday by the council’s surveyor. There are various buildings some of which will need demolished and others that could stay. A fairly small part of the land has most of the value to a developer so there is undoubtedly room for discussion on some, possibly even much of the land being used to help develop an arts quarter. The council are looking for something more interesting than simply a hotel, flats and a couple of shops if the area and its footfall are to be improved as they wish. While there has been a lot of interest in the site from developers there has also been a lot of interest in The Evening News article and the plan will be that when the council announces its short list at the end of October some of those short listed will be people we have had discussions with.
The council then want to have a preferred bidder by the end of the year and hopefully the arts quarter idea will be a part of that. Obviously I know the area very well and have some expertise in the retail side of things but I’ve been very lucky to enlist the help of Tom Watton who recently finished working on the St Margaret’s House project at Meadowbank https://www.list.co.uk/place/23063-st-margarets-house/
Much of the chances of success will be based on “credibility and deliverability” so hopefully we now have all bases covered. If we are successful then there can be more detailed discussions about how we best use the space secured. I can only thank everybody for their good wishes and interest. This will of course only be a small part of a larger plan and I’m told there will still be a public meeting in The Usher Hall in November to discuss in particular live music.