The Council, the City Art Centre and the Museum

I get asked a lot about these things so I’m making an attempt to as briefly as possible explain the last eight years of council dealings so I can refer to it when people ask. Part two: November 2014 – June 2018.

One of the people who got in touch about the arts hub for King’s Stables Road was Karl Chapman the general manager of The Usher Hall. He also mentioned he was trying to organise a meeting about Edinburgh’s music venues but was struggling to get interest. I offered to put out a date in November 2014 on social media and sure enough 100 tickets had gone in no time at all followed by more being made available. From that came Live Music Matters.

At the meeting I met a lady who was Business and Performance Manager at the council for Culture and Sport. A few months earlier the council had suggested that it was unlikely they could give me a building to house an exhibition centre for popular music but space in a council art gallery might be possible. The idea was in its infancy but Andrew Burns the council leader had taken an interest and been very helpful. 

I had mentioned it on my blog and both staff and people from the council got in touch suggesting the City Art Centre which needed a boost and had a ground floor that was greatly underused and uninviting. My idea would be just the thing to bring people in. A supportive council official arranged a meeting with somebody described as a business manager for the CAC. However after waiting almost a month for the meeting she seemed to think I wanted to sell a CD in their shop and clearly hadn’t read the introductory email properly. At that point the idea was simply to have some exhibits and Scottish music for sale. 

Anyway she got back saying no which I then mentioned on my blog. The next day I get another message from a CAC employee saying this is a great idea who said no ? It turned out to be her boss so nothing more was said.

So the next month I’m at the Usher Hall meeting speaking to the Business and Performance Manager responsible for the CAC and she thinks I have a great idea. I get an email “we’re currently looking at innovative ways to improve our services, and we’re thinking about the City Art Centre”. I will get a meeting with the Museums and Galleries Manager, Frank Little. Even better the council’s strategy and finance person will come along and they love the idea too.

Frank’s not keen. Clue is in the name. They are an “art centre”. Council strategy guy reminds Frank music is one of the arts. Frank’s not having it and suggests the Queen’s Hall. I do meet with the CEO of the Queen’s Hall Adrian Harris and he is keen but can’t do anything until the Scottish Chamber Orchestra leaves and the place is renovated which is some time away. For the record just before Adrian retired from the Queen’s Hall he phoned to say he still thought the idea would work and the new CEO is supportive too.

The council also mention that the Tron Kirk is opening as an arts market and is there any chance I will get in touch with the organiser and get involved. I do that but we’ve hit a brick wall on the exhibition idea. The Tron isn’t available for the Festival and I get offered a space in St Mary’s Street. I expected it to be quiet but thought I could push on with the exhibition centre idea and that goes well.

April 2016 and the gentleman who owns the shop has died and I’ll have to leave. It seems the right time to have a final push with a promise of Creative Scotland funding for research and development.

The day after I announce the shop is closing I get a message from Stephen Allen at the National Museum of Scotland. Can I possibly come in and chat abut a collaboration. It was hard to imagine what that could be but of course it was the Rip It Up exhibition. At that point they had no other possibility but it wasn’t confirmed. The exhibition was to be from June to November 2018 and it would then tour going to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. They had no material and few contacts and would I be willing to help. There was no money but they would support my ideas for a permanent exhibition, anything they were offered and couldn’t use would be forwarded to me and anything I thought of use to them I would pass on. The museum would consider purchasing items of significance.

They would put in a good word with Creative Scotland and the City Art Centre. I would help them with contact numbers and make some introductions. If anything was particularly of interest in their exhibition they would see if it was possible for it to be passed on to me afterwards. That would of course always depend on the owners but it would be a shame after all that work if something permanent wasn’t in place.

I could say I was “in talks” with the museum to give my own plans some gravity. I can tell others of the plans on a need to know basis. I don’t doubt Stephen’s sincerity at the time. I do just as instructed and simply say I’ve spoken to the museum in my blog. I get a phone call immediately from Stephen saying that the press office aren’t happy and can I change it to say I’ve spoken to museums and galleries recently. I oblige.

Creative Scotland wait until the last hour of the last day they have to say they don’t have any funds for me despite knowing of the forthcoming museum exhibition. 

The exhibition is finally confirmed just before Christmas so a researcher will be hired and things will push on. In April 2017 I’m told a researcher has been hired and can we all meet up. I actually know the researcher as an old Edinburgh Uni Potterrow indie customer. As it turns out I’m supposed to liaise with him but he’s not allowed to tell me anything !

We all meet up and discuss possible artists. Richard Jobson hasn’t been in touch they say. I message Richard and he calls them the next day despite having a gig the night before. From then on I send over lists of possible artists and help out when artists don’t reply for one reason or another. 

Meanwhile the City Art Centre finally say it will never be appropriate to give my exhibition space and immediately the Fruitmarkt Gallery offer me a pop-up for which I will always be grateful. By now I’ve made some great contacts thanks to Mike who runs the ScotsPostPunk social media sites. Simon Clegg many of whose photographs people will recognise gets in touch offering to help despite now living in Australia. He tracks down an old pal Glenn Gibson who was an NME and The Face journalist and still lives in Glasgow. Glenn has some fantastic stuff including all the Postcard memorabilia used by myself and now the museum.

With the Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition providing a focus others also were a great help. Allan Campbell who I had introduced to the museum and had managed Josef K, run a cool label, put on many great gigs and some amazing clubs helped me track down Paul Haig’s famous guitar. An article in the Evening News had led to contact from some of the Edinburgh sixties beat bands filling the last big hole in my research.

The Fruitmarket pop-up is huge success with 1,500+ people over three days and many more contacts made. Immediately I had contact from Glasgow Life which led to several offers including one from the CCA that I could still take up but none provided finance and were all temporary. Other enquiries followed from Aberdeen, Paisley, Dundee and London. No offers were forthcoming in Edinburgh. Stephen Allen had come to the last day of the exhibition and asked if I could forward a list of things that the museum should be interested in which I did. 

With interest everywhere but Edinburgh I was on the verge of looking elsewhere when it was suggested I speak to Paul Lawrence Edinburgh’s Executive Director of Place and known to like his music. We meet at the beginning of August and he offers to have a word over the City Art Centre. He arranges for me to meet Frank Little again. Frank seems genuinely keen this time and shows me the top floor of the CAC as a possibilty. Not perfect but a great space and accessible from the entrance by lift. He also suggests Trinity Apse just of the High Street but when we see it decides it won’t be suitable. 

I’m asked to put forward a proposal which quickly receives a reply that it turns out the CAC is fully booked for the next three years ! That of course wouldn’t include the top floor which is an events hire space. 

Around this time the museum had finally made its big reveal announcing the Rip It Up exhibition. This I was promised was when they would credit my help and give me something to show to potential sponsors. Stephen Allen had phoned me the morning of the news to let me know so I phoned the press office to see the embargoed press release. There was no mention of my help or plans. I’m promised there will be a drip drip of news and I’ll get my credit soon. 

Even odder the big international reveal barely makes it beyond the pages of The Evening News. The music papers aren’t told and even the Edinburgh Reporter isn’t sent the press release. January 2018 and all was meant to be in place at the museum but I’d heard they hadn’t spoken to Paul Haig though I knew they had been in touch with Malcolm Ross. This was very odd as with Edwyn Collins declining to be involved speaking to Paul was essential..

promo pic for the museum’s Rip It Up exhibition

I arrange for Paul to speak to Stephen and he suggests they use his old guitar from the Fruitmarket exhibition. Malcolm has already loaned the Orange Juice and Josef K posters from the pop-up and Glenn Gibson had loaned all the Postcard memorabilia as well as his records. I still have the guitar and suggest this will be the perfect opportunity for the promised publicity. The press office say they are too busy. Stephen says they can’t stop me mentioning it in my column so I do.

I had also been speaking to the museum’s retail manager about stock for the exhibition shop but that is another story ! However one thing he had said was that he couldn’t imagine the museum supporting any rival exhibition no matter how complementary. I get more feedback along the same lines. Even when asked about what might happen when Rip It Up finishes Stephen fails to mention my plans.

As for the City Art Centre I was prepared to offer more in rent for the top floor than they made in a year. The Fruitmarket Gallery offered a reference on the popularity and quality of their exhibition. Paul Lawrence said he would back the idea and Donald Wilson the Culture Convener said he didn’t even see a reason for it to go to committee for approval but if it did it had his full support. This is a trial there is no need for due process and procurement.

Then in February I hear from Paul with a completely different story

The Council would need to agree that the space in the CAC is to be used for alternate purposes and therefore is available to ‘the market’; We would need to run a marketing/bidding process; We would need to evaluate all bids including an assessment of detailed business plans; The Council would then determine a successful bidder based on a range of criteria.

It is likely that Donald Wilson would want significant work undertaken across the political groups before he agrees to any report.

I was also told there was no guarantee even if I was finally successful how long the arrangement would last as they were considering other options in the future. When I pointed out to Paul this completely contradicted my last meeting with Donald Wilson I was told I would find his and Donald’s thoughts were now “aligned”.

There was no “alternative purpose”. I was just offering to rent it for months rather than days. It was an offer I couldn’t possibly accept, working on something that had no guarantee of success, would not be ready in time to “complement” the museum exhibition and with no guarantee I wouldn’t be kicked out as soon as I got in. 

Several important people are mentioned here. They aren’t used to having their actions questioned and in the arts and culture sector in particular it is a sad situation that cronyism is rife but anybody who says anything is blackballed. Often people need a working relationship and can’t afford to be cut out so stay quiet.

It wasn’t easy helping the museum. I had to approach people and ask if they would get involved and look things out but could give no guarantee their time wouldn’t be wasted. The most disappointing thing of all was when Stephen said he wouldn’t contact Alan Horne the founder of Postcard Records. I’d contacted Alan via a third party before the Fruitmarket exhibition and also told him of the museum’s plans. Stephen had said he’d been advised Alan would be too difficult to deal with so had not even attempted contact. I got a nice reply from Alan thanking me for bothering to track him down and saying he was working on his own projects just now. He wished me luck and said not to rule out being involved in the future.

I received a couple more emails and in the last one he said if I thought it worthwhile I could give his details to the museum and he would speak to them. Anything from Alan would have been a major coup for the museum. It had understandably been top of the researcher’s list who I should add had long left by now. 

Sadly as I say Stephen said he didn’t want to spend time on something that might come to nothing. Used by now to the museum’s attitude I was still stunned. Alan told me he had spent time recently in a windowless loft pulling out the very things I required and I know he has been working on Paul Quinn gig footage so hopefully something will surface in the future. 

My Edinburgh Evening News column this week on the CAC, procurement and the last offer I made is here.

https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kevin-buckle-go-on-go-on-go-on-give-scotpop-space-at-cac-1-4761932

Just days before Rip It Up opened, and months too late to be of use, Stephen Allen finally acknowledged both the help he’d received and the previous Fruitmarket exhibition in his blog. All this is what it is. Now we move on.

The Council, the Grassmarket and the King’s Stables Road

I still get asked a lot about this so I’m making an attempt to as briefly as possible explain the last eight years of council dealings so I can refer to it. Part one: Nov 2010 – Jan 2015.

In November 2010 Avalanche moved to the Grassmarket encouraged by Edinburgh Council’s intention to make it a cool cultural hub. With Armstrongs Vintage, Analogue Books and Red Dog  already established Avalanche moved in between Red Dog and the famous children’s and craft gift shop Helios Fountain.

Having spent £8m on pedestrianisation there was no way the council weren’t going to follow up on their plans to make it a major events space. First news was that the Christmas Market was cancelled. Not a great start ! However there was an exciting new organisation going to be formed to boost business, the Greater Grassmarket BID !

We had a year to put on events and show the BID would work and I helped put on a very successful two day music festival the next April. Again alarm bells should have rang when the council official I was told would help with all the red tape had, it turned out, been on a 14 month contract not renewed. Then the ballot was delayed to September the following year.

The BID was successful at the ballot but went on to be a disaster, massively underfunded and not only not supported by the council but opposed by the local residents. Edinburgh Council when challenged blamed the trams !

April 2014 and Avalanche takes the break option in our lease and leaves. Soon after I’m approached to help with the sale of the large council site just around the corner in King’s Stables Road. There is to be a hotel and student flats but also the creation of an arts hub, specified interesting retailers and an “attraction”. Will I speak to any interested developers asks the council official in charge of the disposal ? I agree after being told that no amount of money can buy the site if it doesn’t have all the features specified. 

I’m approached by several developers who are quite honest that they intend to do the bare minimum beyond the hotel and flats. I decline. One developer gets in touch and has taken the whole plan from the council on board. It’s a no-brainer their bid will succeed and everything points that way until a couple of days before the winner is announced and I hear a rumour it is going to a larger cash bidder with no arts or retail support and no attraction. 

I should add that before we left the Grassmarket I’d been asked to write a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News when the council passed a motion to support music in the city centre. When the King’s Stables Road site became available I’d written another column on the need for an arts hub. This had generated a lot of interest and contact from people who had previously been involved with reports on the site. 

Footfall was key. The council wanted footfall to flow down from the High Street through the Grassmarket and down King’s Stables Road. To encourage this, and footfall up from Lothian Road, the site would need to be a major attraction on several fronts. Reports had been commissioned to show the great benefit to the area and in addition with places like the Usher Hall and Filmhouse nearby the arts hub idea was hugely popular.

So the council may have fucked up with the Grassmarket but they couldn’t do it twice could they ? They could not have shown a better grasp of what was needed. They even realised that things needed to happen sooner rather than later. They wanted a clean offer with no strings attached and work started ASAP. To ensure that they told me every possible report that might be needed had already been done which had delayed the site going on sale by six months.

They fucked up. They gave the site to a developer who made an unfeasibly high bid with no intention of providing the arts facilities, had no retail plans or details of any further attractions. How can I be sure ? Well I was asked to meet the winning developer and keen to see what was planned I agreed. When I asked they were brutally honest. We have a blank sheet of paper and will consult to see what is wanted. 

The current situation is that they haven’t handed over most of the cash yet on what I’m told is a reduced sum. The place has been reduced to rubble but no building has started and now it is subject to an inquiry called by the developers. Last I heard the arts offering had been included as part of the hotel development !

The council were very clear that the system of scoring was such that the site could not be bought simply with money but when I asked under FOI to see the score sheets and their score for their blank sheet of paper I was told it would be confidential until all the cash had been handed over. There is though I believe no reason why any councillor can’t see the figures.

Be very clear here. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a major difference to the flow of footfall in the city centre and Edinburgh Council with all the information in front of them and for reasons that are simply not clear did the opposite of what they had claimed they would do. I’m yet to receive an explanation.        

Rip It Up and keep going

I had hoped to make some definitive statement on the ScotPop Centre this weekend but I haven’t been able to speak to everybody I need to and the opening of the museum’s Rip It Up exhibition raised more questions that had to be dealt with but at least in a good way. Thanks for your patience and thanks to all who help in one way or another.

Rip It Up has actually made it a lot easier to explain what the ScotPop Centre will do and all the interest this week has been very positive. I fully expect to clear everything up this week.

On a lighter note I went to the Rip It Up evening preview with Glenn Gibson the former NME and Face journalist who has been so helpful to me and it was funny to see folk greeting Glenn as a long lost friend. Glenn left the music industry behind in the eighties so many wouldn’t have seen him for several decades. It was good to see how fondly they remembered him and all he did to promote Scottish music then. 

We now of course live in different times.  

A year on from The Only Fun In Town @ Fruitmarket Gallery

This weekend is exactly a year since the successful Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition and by coincidence just days before the museum’s Rip It Up exhibition starts. Despite lots of interest and some great support from individuals we don’t have an Edinburgh space or any sponsorship. That isn’t to say there has been no interest at all and in fact there is currently interest but firming up that interest is proving the problem.

One thing that will be easier once the museum exhibition is open is to explain how the ScotPop  Centre will be different. There is a lot of talk of making sure that something is in place to take over when Rip It Up finishes at the end of November but to be honest that is too distant a target for me.

It is almost four years since Edinburgh council first offered to help and nothing has come from that despite some very promising meetings. The options are simple, either a building or a space within a building but I’ve never had a firm offer. 

As a courtesy I’m speaking to people this week first and then with the museum exhibition open and having waited a year since the pop-up I’ll make firm decisions. Nobody is more frustrated than myself to be constantly kept hanging on believe me.

Thanks to all those who have helped for their patience.

Edinburgh City Centre Retail and Footfall

This is something I will have more to say about in my Edinburgh Evening News column but it absolutely clear things can not go on as they are. If left to the market the city centre will deteriorate to nothing more than food outlets, tartan tat and beauticians / nail bars/ hairdressers. If Edinburgh Council decide that diverse and interesting retail is part of the attraction of a city and if they want to be seen to support artists selling their wares then positive intervention is the only answer. It would certainly help if those with the power to do something weren’t so sure they understand the challenges facing retail that are neither as simple or black and white as many think.

The current situation with a very strong business improvement district (BID) in Essential Edinburgh based around Princes Street, a weak West End BID and and an Old Town BID that will not get the mandate it needs to replace the smaller Grassmarket BID also has to be addressed sooner rather than later. I am now more hopeful than I have been that this will happen. BIDs clearly need to work together closely rather can compete. 

Edinburgh Council identified King’s Stables Road as a key part of the jigsaw in improving footfall around the city and yet abandoned all plans to do something about it when they sold the large site there. While there is still no final agreement on the development for the site leaving a possibility something can be salvaged I’m not optimistic the council will insist on any of the positive features for the arts and footfall that were in the original plans. 

While I intend for the ScotPop Music Exhibition Centre to be in the city centre and unlike most exhibitions cover a large part if not all of its costs it should be sheltered from the worst vagaries of retail.  Having said that we all benefit from a thriving city centre and my heart will always be with the retailers that fight the good fight on the high street every day.

Selling new and old music to new people

I could  give you a long explanation as to how the current methods for sales and marketing music only work for the very few all of whom have developed their fan base under a completely different system and how for everybody else all the accepted ways of selling and marketing are wrong but I feel I’ve said enough about that already.

The recent report that over 70% of vinyl is bought by superfans points to the problem. Not enough general music lovers are being reached and tempted to buy music they may like but not know well if at all. My hope with the ScotPop Music Exhibition Centre is that it will be a good way of reaching people interested in Scottish music and wanting to hear more.

It has long been known that if you put good music, well presented in front of people they will still buy it but as footfall in shops has declined that has become harder and harder. Online browsing simply doesn’t work the same way. I had hoped the National Museum would take up the idea for their exhibition and while they declined Waterstones had already said they would be happy to support Scottish music. 

Waterstones ground floor opposite the castle

What the idea needs is customers used to browsing and open to new things so we simply could not have done better than have Waterstones on board and from June I will be curating a selection of newer releases along with some older ones in a space on the ground floor. 

Whatever happens in the future I have no intention of competing over new releases when the playing field is not level. Put quite simply it is only fair to our customers that we offer them the same formats, at the same time for the same price. To say artists and labels are disingenuous with their “indie only” releases is to put it mildly. Most but not all offer these indie releases to the fan base with no mention that they will also be available in shops and before the shops even know about them.  

After months of trying to persuade fans to buy directly all of sudden come the week of release labels and bands suddenly remember you can also buy their release in a shop and encourage folk to do so. Even worse is when the indies only release has some extra from the label that the shops don’t get or when sales are so good that there aren’t enough of the limited format to go round all the shops and they get the numbers they have ordered cut back.

Avalanche is committed to giving customers the best deal and making sure fans get the version of a release they would want. This goes to the very top and was very obvious with the new Arctic Monkeys album. When vinyl first started to recover but before everybody jumped on the bandwagon we had to stock all the Arctic Monkeys albums on vinyl five at a time to cope with demand. It helped we also had some great original promo posters for sale.

Even though we weren’t covering the album we had a lot of enquiries from old customers asking if we would be getting the silver vinyl. The answer was no, silver vinyl was only from their label Domino Records. A few others were looking for the gold vinyl but that was only from the band’s pop-up shops. There was an indies only clear vinyl but truth is more than half of all vinyl sales were silver and gold. A few superfans wanted to buy all three or even all four including the black vinyl. 

Of course at the other end of the scale there are different issues but Avalanche’s focus will now always be on reaching new people with Scottish music and building up a base of those people for the future. The stocking policy will simply be based on whether the music is good enough to tempt people to spend their hard earned cash and whether I think I can do a good job promoting it.

Looking for clues

“Johnny thinks the world would be right
If it would buy the truth from him”

I went to see Robert Palmer at the Playhouse in June 1981 (date courtesy of the Edinburgh Gig Archive) just to hear “Johnny and Mary”. Otherwise I wasn’t really a fan but I loved that song. I was never sure why but recently that lyric came back to me.

It’s been four long years since I left the Grassmarket looking for clues as to how things could move forward both on the music side and in Edinburgh city centre retail. A handful of you will see what I did there ! It was all going to take a year ! Also by then the germ of an idea for an exhibition centre had also formed. Four years later I really do think I have the answer and it isn’t 42.

Of course I haven’t worked all this out myself, more than anything else I’ve just listened to others. Add in the new experiences of being at the Tron Kirk and St Mary’s Street and the traumas of dealing with the council and arts bodies and an understanding of what is needed started to form. The good thing about listening to people is that you have far more chance of success if you give folk what they want. The good thing about physically being out on the street trading is that you face the reality not some theoretical “experiential” retail.

Truth is while I genuinely believe that an amazing amount has been achieved the cost has been too high. A year out is one thing but four has consequences that it is hard to justify. All that has gone before was necessary to reach this point so what is important now is to make the most of things.

Over the course of the next week I’ll say more on the three areas that while distinct in many ways do at time also overlap – music retail especially new music, city centre retail and the ScotPop Music Exhibition Centre.

While I have had involvement in the discussions over music venues in Edinburgh it is not something I can personally get involved with beyond potentially a venue being part of the centre. 

This is not me knowing best and telling folk what to do. This is the result of four years of on the ground experience and listening to people. I’ve already run many of the ideas by people who have a wide range of experience and they have been well received. 

I just hope those concerned will buy the truth from me because I can’t afford to give it away for free !   

ScotPop Centre moving forward and set up

As expected there has been no last minute offer of a building or money though every possibility hasn’t quite been exhausted yet. There was always a plan to set up a non-profit making organisation with a board once we had reached the point of opening the centre as that is how all such things are run now and I have plenty of people who are willing to join the board who already hold important positions in business and the arts and have skills that will help.

One reason we have run out of time to be ready by June is it will take around three months to set all this up and then see if we can get matched funding for any sponsorship. One very positive thing is publicity and promotion will never be a problem. There is worldwide interest and support and all parts of the media are just waiting for me to press the button. From double page spreads in magazines and radio and TV coverage to a UK poster campaign from the same people who promote Record Store Day we are extremely lucky to have such support and of course social media is our friend !

Postcard Records press release

Because the idea is so popular I haven’t felt the need to go down the route of places like the Leith and King’s Theatres with celebrity endorsements but maybe we should do a little more of that in the future. 

My advice to the museum was that they would need to cover everything from introducing people to bands to having things even fans hadn’t seen and possibly that is an advantage the ScotPop Centre has in that that is maybe too broad a remit for them but something the centre can excel in thanks to all the help we have had.

For now though  sensibly I need to get back to making some kind of living and I’ll look into that in the coming weeks. All being well it will just mean selling music with some work on the centre when the focus has been the other way round for too long now.

ScotPop Centre news

Pic by @Birmingham_81

Sadly it looks like we have run out of time to find a home for the centre in time for the summer. Everything from what we have been offered to very visible worldwide promotion has gone well beyond all my expectations but I’ve been unable to find a home or any substantial financial support.

Money is now a huge issue and I will need to focus on that while putting the centre if not quite on the hold at least on the back burner. Avalanche/myself has financed this idea for over three years now and Avalanche will almost certainly need to return physically to raise the funds needed. Quite how that will be done is still to be decided but it certainly won’t be achieved by selling new releases ! 

Despite the support of Donald Wilson the Culture Convener and Paul Lawrence the council’s Chief Executive of Place it is clear that the centre is in no way being treated as would an art exhibition be by the council. What is more it is also clear that the more I fight the corner for pop music as art the more some folk are irritated. I guarantee the council will give plenty of space free of charge to the visual arts during the Festival despite saying they need to bring in an income for all their buildings and the Festival being the prime time to do that and of course saying that just annoys them more.

The next deadline is to have something ready in time for the museum exhibition finishing in November and by coincidence Avalanche has an offer to work on a very exciting project about that time with investment from Europe. I can’t pretend it isn’t a huge opportunity lost to promote Scottish music in an alternative but complementary way to the museum’s plans but while there was huge confidence after the Fruitmarket Gallery pop-up that individuals and businesses would come forward to offer support actually it mostly generated several enquiries from Glasgow !   

And before folk ask yes if I get a firm offer from Glasgow the centre will open there. I had always hoped to eventually have something in both cities and possibly others too and once the opportunity to coincide with the Rip It Up exhibition is lost then there is no reason not to open in Glasgow first. I have already had offers that I haven’t had time to explore fully though nothing permanent.

Some ScotPop Centre related things are already in motion and will still go ahead and there are one or two fund raising ideas too. More of that very soon. I won’t even start to try thanking people just now for all that has been done to get this far for fear of missing folk out but though I say so myself it should not be underestimated just what has been achieved. Given what I’ve managed to get done dedicating most of my time to the centre I estimate there is still about three years work left and of course often more leads are generated so as such it will probably always be an evolving idea which no doubt is a good thing.   

Finding the ScotPop Centre a home – a brief history

While Avalanche was still in the Grassmarket Edinburgh Council decided to support music in the city centre “like New York and Sydney”. Plans to use empty council buildings were quickly dismissed by their property department but it was suggested space in council buildings might be found and it was soon established that council owned museums and galleries were by far the best possible locations.

Consequently a little later when looking for a home for the exhibition centre artists who were also musicians said that ignoring any arguments about the validity of the art there were large rooms that would be all we needed dedicated to maybe a couple of paintings or a sparse installation. Soon after that several people associated with the City Art Centre got in touch to say the ground floor of the CAC would be perfect and just what was needed to attract more folk in. 

It is well documented elsewhere that despite a very successful pop-up at the Fruitmarket Gallery two drawn out attempts to get space in the CAC have failed. It is still the case that huge rooms exist within the council’s galleries including the CAC but despite assurances it is not the case a pop music exhibition doing its best to break even is not seen in the same light as an art installation or exhibition that needs several grants just to exist and 99% of people have no interest in. 

You see there is a clue in the grant system. If a gallery needs half a million, or a million or two million pounds every three years on top of any other funding received just to cover its costs then it’s because the vast majority of people really don’t care and in fact it will only get worse. In a recent YouGov survey the younger folk were, the more likely they were to consider the arts, be that classical music or art galleries, as “posh” and of no interest to them. 

That the powers that be consider a Mexican artist with his field recordings of whales and dolphins to be art worthy of waiving any fees but an exhibition about Scottish musicians to be unworthy of support says it all. 

I really did think that the National Museum of Scotland’s Rip It Up exhibition this year would have established that a permanent Scottish music exhibition should be taken seriously but that is very clearly not the case. Sadly I don’t see things changing.