Where next for Edinburgh's music scene?
Wednesday, 03 November 2010
It's been a hellish week at the more modest end of Edinburgh's live music scene.
On Friday, just a matter of days since it hosted the ambitious Hidden Door festival, the Roxy Art House revealed that the charity which owns the building had run out of cash and the doors were closing, leaving all staff abruptly jobless.
Now that the dire financial affairs of said charity Edinburgh University Settlement (no longer related to the university) are becoming clear (they had reportedly run up debts of £4million and had been taking advice from a convicted fraudster), the implications for the city's grassroots music scene are also emerging to their fullest extent.
That's because the organisation also owned the leases on buildings which house two more venues - the GRV and the Forest Café (as well as neighbouring Bristo Hall). Both these places, like the Roxy, are home to diverse billings of local talent across all genres, and the Forest in particular had moved beyond its hippy hangout image through a widely praised alternative Fringe programme, countless EP launches by local bands and events like the first Retreat! festival in 2009.
There has been some confusion over the status of the GRV. There were recent reports the club had been sold to a new owner following claims that it had "stolen" thousands of pounds of electricity during the festival. We contacted them today to find out if they are still operational: no-one answered the phone.
The link between the three places - besides one hapless landlord - was the kind of activity that's driven by passion, not profit; a collective of (mostly) young, creatively minded people pouring time and energy into projects which may not have lined their pockets but which did rekindle talk of that problematic and unavoidable word: a 'scene'. It's not something that's taken for granted in Edinburgh, that's for sure.
But now a lot of this type of activity has come to an end. As anyone who has tried to put on an independent gig in the city will testify, Edinburgh suffers from a dearth of cheap, readily available smaller venues in comparison to Glasgow.
A music scene depends just as much on promoters, bookers and programmers as it does on artists, and if these people desert the capital they will take with them a large chunk of the city's ability to foster new music and art.
Fresh venues may eventually spring up to fill the void, but in these testing times they are unlikely to be given a fraction of the artistic freedom enjoyed by places like the Roxy and the Forest.
Few signs of hope then, but the outpouring of supportive words from those who have fraternised these venues is a starting point; a sign that more than just a minority of people care about DIY endeavours and don't just want to be spoonfed brand sponsored events and major label touring bands.
Acknowledging this groundswell, the people behind the Forest haven't given up completely. They have set themselves the formidable task of raising £500,000 to buy the building and are seeking donations. If you don't want to see another marker on Edinburgh's cultural map blotted out by yet another faceless property development, you might want to help them out.
(Dis)agree? Let us know what you think...
Posted by Billy Hamilton