The Soundhouse Story

Early days

Soundhouse’s origins can be traced back to the early 1980s when a graphic design student called Douglas Robertson was instrumental in the opening and operation of Edinburgh College of Art’s Wee Red Bar. He was also involved in organising the annual Art School Revels.

Early days
1980s
The house concerts begin

Fast forward to 2002 and Douglas, by then a photographer living in a converted shop on the edge of Holyrood Park, was asked to host a house concert for his old friend Dean Owens, one of Edinburgh’s best known and best regarded singer songwriters. When Douglas’s other musician friends got to hear about Dean’s gig they began asking if they could play in the house too.

As these musicians toured and told other musicians about playing in the house, more and more of them got in touch asking to entertain Douglas and his friends.

The house concerts begin
2002
So many concerts, not enough space

By 2012 Douglas and his partner Jane-Ann had put on literally hundreds of gigs in their house, welcoming bands from all over the world, and inviting audiences of friends to come and see them. Their ethos is always to treat the musicians well and ask for donations from audience members that go direct to the artists. As a result these musicians come back time and again to play their favourite gig. In 2012 Douglas and Jane-Ann dipped their collective toe into commercial promotion when they put on a gig at the Queen’s Hall for New Orleans blues legend and house favourite Chris Smither.

From 2013 Douglas and Jane-Ann started investigating a proper venue in Edinburgh where musicians can perform, rehearse and record. They want to encourage teaching and learning too through workshops and master classes for professional musicians led by the very best exponents from around the world. The decision was made to set up The Soundhouse Organisation as a charity and they quickly put together a group trustees made up of musicians and music lovers.

So many concerts, not enough space
2013
The Traverse Theatre Bar

Finding a venue in Edinburgh does not prove easy, so heading into 2015 The Soundhouse Organisation began putting on gigs in The Traverse Theatre bar every Monday night. This swiftly becomes a very sought-after booking for local and international bands alike.

The Traverse Theatre Bar
2015
Edinburgh Tradfest

Since 2016 we have been programming gigs for Edinburgh Tradfest and in 2019 took over the running of the festival from TRACS. In 2019, by refocussing the festival to a predominantly programmed music event, we doubled the audience for our gigs compared with 2018.

Edinburgh Tradfest
2016
The Soundhouse Choir

Via singer and vocal coach Heather Macleod we formed the Soundhouse Choir, also in 2016 which, even in these restricted times, continues to go from strength to strength. The choir’s current number is 120 (meeting regularly via Zoom and in person). In 2020 they unveiled a new video Enough is Enough with Karine Polwart and Oi Musica. This is a special project that was planned as a response to COP26 – the climate change conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow in 2020. The choir finally got to perform the song live at the event in  November 2021.

The Soundhouse Choir
2016
Going digital

As you would expect, all our gigs after early March 2020 were cancelled and Edinburgh Tradfest was curtailed because of coronavirus, however our funding allowed us to pay all the musicians their guarantees, put out an upbeat collaborative video to mark what would have been the start of the festival (1 May) and produce Edinburgh Tradfest Spotlight. This was a season four high quality online gigs with artists who would have been part of Tradfest (streamed in October/November).

In 2021 we built on the success of Edinburgh Tradfest Spotlight with another ten online gigs, billed as Soundhouse Spotlight. These reflected the broadness of our usual programming featuring a wide spectrum of artists from the worlds of jazz, folk, classical, Americana and experimental music. They were supported by Creative Scotland.

We hoped that Edinburgh Tradfest might be back IRL, but it too was digital in May 21. We presented two online concerts, one livestream and one pre-recorded, and a very popular podcast! This programme was supported by Creative Scotland and the William Grant Foundation.

Going digital
2020-21
Returning to live

In August 2021 we returned to gigs with live audiences in the outdoor/covered space of the Old College Quad. We co-promoted a series of 16 traditional music concerts with Edinburgh International Festival. And in October/November 21 we returned to the Traverse with a series of socially distanced live gigs supported by Creative Scotland and the William Grant Foundation. These concerts were also filmed and streamed via Traverse 3 (the Traverse’s digital theatre)  in November/December 21.

Returning to live
2021