Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Arts Attacked

Last week saw a flurry of activity across the country as a variety of community and arts groups got involved in celebrating World Community Arts Day.2012 on Friday 17th Feb

Events around Edinburgh included street art with The Wee Blue Box, poetry from Craigmiller Writers Group, and a craft market and tapestry exhibition at Cockenzie House to name a few but WORLD Community Arts Day has a much wider reach with events happening in Ireland, Poland, Mexico and many other countries.

However, all is not well in the Arts Community as new legislation is due to be introduced on 1st April which will make events like this much harder to participate in.
Not only is the arts and culture sector facing massive cuts but now grassroots organisations are going to be taxed for being creative and innovative too!
Already the opportunities which exist for new work to be displayed are limited as many gallery fees are exclusive to those on a low income and community spaces where emerging talent can be developed and shared are continually being lost as budgets are cut and assets sold.

 The new Public Entertainment Licencing Fees to be introduced through the controversial Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act of 2010 has huge implications for the licensing of small scale, temporary, free artistic or musical events.

It has caused uproar in the artistic community with Creative Scotland, numerous other arts organisations and individuals speaking out about the impact this will have on grassroots arts and culture initiatives.

A petition calling for fees to be scrapped has been set up now WHICH YOU CAN SIGN HERE!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Edinburgh's underground scene set to be buried

There was more bad news for Edinburgh's city centre as today the Bongo Club announced they were to be evicted by Edinburgh University.
The loss of this unique venue follows fast on the heals of news that another well loved venue which is home to a wide range of homegrown clubs, is to close for 'refurbishment' at the end of this month. The loss of  Cabaret Voltaire, is seen by many as a betrayal by new owners G1 who claimed to be pursuing a "hands off " approach when they took over the lease last year.

A petition to try and save the Bongo Club has been set up already in the hope Edinburgh University Management can be persuaded to review their decision CLICK HERE
A Save Bongo Club Facebook page to show support and share ideas for action has also been set up.

The Bongo and OOTB's home at New St (now demolished)

This is not the first time Bongo have been forced out the city. In 2005 Out of the Blue were evicted from New St along with their club the Bongo. Local traders and small businesses, New Street Studios, the Sunday Market and numerous crafters and artists were evicted from the old bus depot (now demolished) and Canongate Venture. Fortunately the old Bongo Club found a new home close by within  Moray House but OOTB moved to Leith. Many other artists, creatives and independent businesses from New St area were forced to leave Edinburgh as affordable workspace in the city centre disappeared.
The Big Red Door (now closed)
We have seen the loss of many community facilities, arts organisations and venues across the city centre in recent years (The Big Red Door, Forest Cafe, Dumbiedykes IT Centre, Panmuir House, The Venue and The Roxy to name a few) as the council sells off valued land and assets to encourage speculative redevelopment schemes focused on increasing land values. Edinburgh University, who want to redevelop the Bongo club for offices, already have permission for a significant amount of redevelopment for student accommodation and facilities around the Moray House area.

In the desperate drive to create more 'events space', tourism accommodation, luxury flats class 'A' shops and offices in the city centre, the council are forgetting to provide for people whose presence create the 'living city centre' used in so much of their promotional material. Their hope is it will stimulate the local economy, but this kind of gentrification is known to create little economic benefit to the neighbourhood.

Its time for a change!
Although the Scottish Government have expressed encouragement and provided some financial support for communities to take over management of local assets and have a greater say in the running of their neighbourhoods, some local authorities have proved they are not willing to support (or even listen to) community initiatives!

As we approach the Local Government elections it's time to ask your councillor what they have done to support community initiatives or facilities in their area, and ask candidates what will they do differently.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Community Visioning

Today Edinburgh Council launched their Canal Strategy to develop a new 'canal culture' across communities stretching from Tollcross to Ratho. This strategy was put out to consultation last summer and whilst many support the development of environmental and access improvements to the Canal, concerns were again raised by local residents of the 'planned' developments beside the canal corridor. Any concerns raised about the proposed canal side developments were dismissed as being the subject of Local Plan proposals and development frameworks.

But is the Local Plan working?
In the Local Plan the masterplans and development briefs (now more than 5 years old) for Caltongate, Quartermile, and Fountainbridge are identified as the development propsals which will deliver offices, leisure and retail units, tourist and business developments as well as (the only) new housing planned for the city centre. Whilst there are plenty of empty  available offices around the city centre, and continued intrest for developing additional hotels, delivery of approved housing development in the city centre has not been successful.

The recently produced Local Plan Monitoring Report states only 247 of the approved 1069 residential units have been completed at Quartermile, only 77 of the 1206 approved residential units have been completed at Fountainbridge and no development has been achieved at Caltongate.

Many communities feel it is now necessary to take a lead in the planning process and come forward with their own visions for the development of their neighbourhoods.
Acttive citizens in the Tollcross/Fountainbridge area are taking the lead in their community and are holding an event next Saturday.

It is time that Councillors listened to their constituents and ensure officials embrace community led initiatives to find solutions which are economically and socially sustainable.