News Column

Bid to save historic music venue

July 17, 2014

brian donnelly; brian donnelly

IT HAS played host to Pink Floyd and The Smiths across decades of entertainment in the Scottish capital.

Now a last-ditch attempt is under way to save the Picture House on Lothian Road in Edinburgh as a music venue with the issue being raised by politicians in the Scottish Parliament.

More than 12,500 people, including 19 MSPs, have signed a petition pressing for the venue to remain a music hub. However, it looks likely the shut-down premises will be re-opened as a pub.

JD Wetherspoon has lodged an application with Edinburgh City Council to re-open the Picture House as one of its prime locations in Edinburgh, a few hundred yards off Princes Street.

Callum Mouat, who worked at the venue and raised the petition, said the building had been an institution among music fans.

He said: "The last thing this city needs is a key music venue, as well as the Edinburgh music scene, to be tarnished.

"The Picture House has a musical history stretching back three decades and has brought the best international acts to the Scottish capital with acts as diverse as Franz Ferdinand to Amadou and Mariam having graced its stage.

"During the 1970s and 1980s it was known as The Caley Palais and hosted gigs by some of the biggest name artists of its generation including New Order, The Smiths, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Orange Juice, Queen and AC/DC.

"I refuse to stand by and watch decades of live music history be tarnished all in the name of a burger and a pint for pound(s)6."

He added: "Without the Edinburgh Picture House, that band you've waited ages to see will be through in Glasgow, resulting in increased costs for music lovers who now have to leave events early in order to catch the last bus or train at ridiculous o'clock for around pound(s)10 or pound(s)15 extra."

Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi has also opposed the move.

He said: "I raised the issue of the large number of Wetherspoons applications in particular in Parliament with the minister for public health, and his message was what my message would be: we have to pay attention to the experts here, and the experts in both health and anti-social behaviour, the police and the NHS, have argued against additional licences in that area in the past."

He wrote to MSPs that the Parliament should note the recent purchase of the Edinburgh live music venue, the Picture House, by JD Wetherspoon.

He asked Holyrood to consider the Picture House is a much-loved venue and a key part of Edinburgh's music scene.

He pointed out that the loss of the capacity to host musical performances would be a cultural and economic loss to the city.

He also asked that MSPs understandsthat a petition urging the new owners to retain the Picture House as a venue for music had attracted more than 10,000 signatures.

He urged JD Wetherspoon to preserve the place of live music in its plans for the Picture House.

A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon said: "We didn't close it down. Wetherspoons bought the building after it was closed. In terms of the music, it's not on the agenda, but things could change.

"The plans are in and anyone who wants to look at the plans can. It is totally transparent."

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said Edinburgh already faced high levels of alcohol-related health and social harm that cost the city more than pound(s)221 million per year.

She said: "It would be a real cause for concern if a large capacity pub is opened in an area where there are already so many licensed premises."

Supporters include DJ Vic Galloway who said: "Edinburgh needs music venues and not more pubs."


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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