City ghosts

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: My (g)Host City story is now available to download from Amazon and Bandcamp, and the whole album is available on iTunes. The writers get most of the money from downloads. Just throwing that out there, casual, like.

Very quick update, squeezed in between crazy-busy schedule, to let anyone who happens to be reading this about a very worthwhile project you can enjoy from your computer RIGHT NOW (although it’s even better enjoyed in your earphones, on the streets of Edinburgh).

Billed as ‘Edinburgh’s Virtual Festival’, (g)Host City sits on top of Edinburgh, with stories, performance pieces, sound collages and other audio fun designed to be listened to in specific locations around the city. Download them to your phones or MP3 players and press play at the start points. My piece, called The Dancing, takes you for a walk through Fountainbridge. I’m a bit into psychogeography* on the sly, and Fountainbridge, once industrial and working class, now increasingly on the up, is one of the most interesting areas in the city just now. Architecture on the move, lots of ghosts being stamped out.

In the 1950s, ‘Big Tam’ Connery, as he was known pre-Hollywood, was a local and a bouncer at the Palais de Danse, a shining white hall of dreams amid the ‘Fountainbridge stench” (the combined, ah, perfumes of the brewery and the North British Rubberworks next door, which employed most of the people in the area. The whole street stank of it).

Nowadays, they’ve knocked down the factories for glassy office buildings and style bars. They’re reclaiming the old industrial canal with quaint boats and waterfront apartments, and the council have started called the area variously ‘Edinburgh’s Canal Quarter’ and ‘Little Venice’ (it’s like when they renamed Waverly Market as Princes Mall: the old names are so, so much better). As a kid I used to ride my bike along the canal path, holding my breath as the hops-reek of the brewery approached: going back there now I feel a bit cheated by its absence, but then I don’t recognise the area easily any more. Maybe I’ve just been away too long.

The Palais de Danse, boarded up and overpowered by steely towers, is a sad little thing now. Weeds sprouting out of the cracks, wires hanging in the shape of ripped-off neon signs and an already-faded council notice, dated 2008 and requesting permission to turn it into a casino. It doesn’t fit its upwardly mobile surroundings and will be knocked down soon. Grisly foreshadowing of its possible fate is just across the road: the old Edinburgh Meat Market, which has been scooped out with only its entry facade preserved as an archway to nowhere, the stone bleached blonde to fit in with the new-look city.

Anyway, I took a couple of characters for a walk around the area, and The Dancing is the result. It’s a bit dark, a bit sad, a bit sexy, and as I recorded the whole thing myself, it also features ten seconds of my stunningly tuneless singing voice. You can download it through the (g)Host City website for £2. Here’s a map for the route (it doesn’t take long) – start at Costa Coffee on the corner of Fountainbridge and Lothian Road. If you’re not in Edinburgh, you can follow it part of the way on Google Street View – although the car was last there a couple of years ago and the area already looks very different…

There are a number of other excellent writers, performers and dudes taking part in (g)Host City too. Have a look at the programme: I particularly recommend Kieran Hurley, Hannah McGill, Alan Bissett, Ewan Morrison and Momus…

Hope you enjoy it, anyway.

*I am terrified of this word. It always, always looks wrong.

Nights at the Palais de Danse.

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