Later this month Scotland’s capital will host revellers from across the world, drawn by our famous Hogmanay street party to drink, sing and watch fireworks in the shadows of the Castle and the Crags.
In the summer the process will be repeated in even bigger numbers, as Festival season draws not just tourists but comedians, musicians, artists and performers in their droves.
Edinburgh is renowned as a city of art and culture – and with good reason. But Hogmanay will be the last time the iconic music venue the Picture House is open in its current form. With less than a months’ notice it has been announced that the much-loved venue has been sold to JD Wetherspoon who plan to replace it with a superpub.
The venue’s name points to a previous life as a different form of cultural institution, which should remind us that not all change is bad. Simple nostalgia should never stand in the way of genuine progress. But the loss of the Picture House as a music venue would strike at the heart of Edinburgh’s music scene at a time when we should be seeking to increase our cultural capacity.
There is no shortage of pubs in Edinburgh’s city centre. Another JD Wetherspoon bar on George Street is just a short walk from the Picture House. But Edinburgh does lack in mid-sized music venues capable of catering to the sort of acts who’ve played the Picture House for years. This is not just the loss of a particular venue, but a threat to Edinburgh’s ability to host touring acts at all.
The Edinburgh Playhouse has a packed calendar of mainly musical theatre. The Corn Exchange hosts some touring acts, but amongst hundreds of other events. The Usher Hall caters mainly for high culture. There does not seem to be any obvious spare capacity to host the events lost from the closure of the Picture House elsewhere in the city, raising the prospect of east coast music fans having to travel to Glasgow for every gig.
A petition calling for the new owners to keep the Picture House as a home of live music has gathered over 10,000 signatures. We need culture more than another chain pub – and the new owners should be mindful that 10,000 potential customers aren’t worth alienating.
Sign the petition here and tell JD Wetherspoon to save music at the Picture House.