19 March 2012
The List Magazine asked four of Edinburgh’s ‘nightlife yodas’ to give their opinion on the current predicament the capital’s club and live music venues find themselves in. You can read them all (including Kris ‘Wasabi’ Walker, Rob Hoon from Out Of The Blue, Tallah Brash from Electric Circus, Rupert Thomson from Summerhall and yours truly, as well as the official line from G1 Group) here. Here’s a copy of my opinion:
There can be no doubt that Edinburgh University’s decision to force The Bongo Club out of Moray House a year before its lease was originally due to be renewed is disastrous for Edinburgh. The Bongo Club occupies a niche of enormous importance for many, students and longer-term residents alike. It took the venue two years to recover from its last eviction (with that land still derelict a decade later), and, if it really is impossible to let it remain, finding a good replacement space is imperative. The Bongo is one of a dwindling number of vital cogs in the wheel that pumps lifeblood into the city’s alternative music and club scene(s).
The others (including Sneaky Pete’s, Electric Circus, The Voodoo Rooms, Henry’s Cellar Bar, The Wee Red Bar, The Liquid Room, Studio 24 and The Picture House) are either on a smaller or larger scale, while Cabaret Voltaire and the Bongo have occupied an essential middle ground for the last decade. Of a similar size, The Caves would definitely be more vital if it wasn’t so expensive to hire. A wide network of venues is fundamental, to offer a broad enough variety of audiences for whom acts can regularly perform their work and to hone a style of their own.
It remains to be seen exactly how the recent change of hands at Cabaret Voltaire will affect its programme. But, given new owner Stefan King/G1 Group’s track record, we can be certain of one thing: Cabaret Voltaire will no longer be breaking boundaries in music. The gap left here will undoubtedly be filled, though, by The Liquid Room’s new lower-ground-floor club, The Annexe (approx. 250-300 cap.), launching Sat 25th Feb, and its new basement space, currently projected to open at the end of 2012. This last room could match the capacity of the main space (750 gig – 1000 club cap.), but a smaller size would clearly be the way to go, if credibility and longevity are its main objectives. Negociant’s old basement, Medina (250 cap.), currently undergoing a soft re-launch as The Third Door, also has real potential. If new owner Ellis Johnston can invest as required and employ an intelligent team, all of whom exhibit the kind of passion and savvy for the music scene to be found at the aforementioned venues, it could be realised.
So, things aren’t so bad that Edinburgh can’t recover (again). However, it does take blood, sweat and tears, as well as real business nous, imagination and talent. If a few more politicians also cared enough to understand how significant a part of the broader Cultural Economy this night-time trade is, by addressing these and related licensing issues, the whole state-of-play could be improved, and drastically.
Sign the Bongo’s petition.
Save The Bongo Facebook Page.
There was also a good article on the same subject by Bram Gieben in March’s edition of The Skinny, which you can read here.