Douglas Robertson reflects on the past year, announces the new Soundhouse board and looks forward to the future …
Almost a year has passed since our last Soundhouse concert. We saw some of you last August when we were involved in three low-key, below-the-radar open air gigs in Edinburgh, but other than that, it’s been a lean year for live music with live audiences.
We’ve seen countless festivals cancelled including our very own Edinburgh Tradfest last May and venues lying empty. Musicians, sound engineers and countless others have lost their income and the ability to do what they love.
I could continue in this vein but will desist as I think we all need some good news instead.
We’re hoping for a silver lining appearing in the dark clouds that have enveloped us for so long. Why is this? The answer is a combination of reasons not entirely divorced from the current pandemic.
For years every potential venue for a permanent Soundhouse facility has been thwarted by the pressure on an Edinburgh property market with its insatiable appetite for yet more ‘student flats’ or more destined-to-be-empty hotels.
There’s much talk now of reduced tourism, more on-line learning, and evidence that many workers are more productive operating from home rather than at the office.
Another hot topic is the monumental increase of online shopping and the collapse of high street retailers. This has led to many discussions within various levels of government regarding the preservation of city centres. Sadly, we see the recent granting of planning permission to convert another swathe of buildings to hotels including more than one Princes Street shop.
However, we sincerely hope that somewhere in this madness we may be able to argue the case for a city centre hub for the Scottish live music industry incorporating venue, bar, cafe, rehearsal spaces, recording facility, and meeting place. That will be Soundhouse.
We believe that this is precisely the kind of facility that can help to revitalise our city centre after the ravages of COVID.
Stepping up to the challenge
As a registered charity Soundhouse is governed by a board of trustees. Until now this board has been dominated by professional musicians representing various genres, but we’re currently undergoing a process of change.
To move forward we’ve had to get a little bit more serious. If and when an opportunity arises we need to be ready. The first step was to identify the skills required for our board of trustees then to fill the obvious gaps.
Having approached a ‘dream team’ of potential trustees at the start of 2021, I’m delighted to say that every person we asked has accepted our invitation and they all joined us for the first meeting of the new board last Wednesday (24/2/21).
Our new chair is Ros Rigby, an arts professional who was instrumental in setting up Sage Gateshead, and our treasurer is now Larry Morris who has held various posts as finance director in the United States (and worked with Leonard Cohen on his comeback tour).
The new board also includes Andy Law, who is a recently retired architect with a terrific knowledge of building and property matters. He also built a recording studio beside his house. We have Anne Diack, who has worked alongside Fiona Hyslop and knows Scottish Government inside out. She’s now employed by Edinburgh Fringe. Kate Lindey is an events organiser with 20 years experience who works in the Festivals, Culture and City Events Office at the University of Edinburgh. And our youngest member is Ruby Zajac, a fèisean alumnus and Cambridge graduate with impressive credentials in the world of arts management, social engagement and politics.
All of these people have shown great commitment to supporting the music industry over the years. We see this as an essential quality for our trustees.
The six people above join Aidan O’Rourke, Martin Kershaw and myself – all original members of the board.
From this basis we intend to argue our case for a Live Music Centre for Scotland which will also be the most inspiring and coolest venue on the planet.
To move to the next stage may involve raising some funds allowing us to move swiftly when an opportunity arises. Under normal circumstance we’d organise a series of concerts with this aim.
However, for obvious reasons this is impossible.
All that we ask for now is for you all to remain in the loop, keep abreast of developments as we move forward, and, if you’re in a position to do so, give us support when we ask.
In return we’ll give you (and this fine city) the venue that it has deserved for so long.
Take care, stay safe!
Soundhouse Trustee and Founder
By Steve M, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13672450