Behind the Red Door

Twenty miles outside of Scotland’s bustling capital lies a place with a vibrant community of close to 20,000 people, where the Union canal divides the neighbourhoods at the hilltop and the High Street at the foot, which leads to the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. In many ways, the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow is a worthy equal to Edinburgh.

However, the recent launch of Red Door means the West Lothian town may steal the limelight from the big city when it comes to showcasing local music. On the high street, hidden between the eleven pubs, small cafes and local shops, there is a red door which many people often walk past without noticing  — the entranceway to St. Peter’s Church. In the close future, following the work of three musical enthusiasts, this red door will signify the portal to a new venue which could bring the community’s music scene to life.

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The recent renovations transformed the heart of the 90-year-old church into an unexpected Greek-orthodox style kirk with a Cycladic style dome, gifting the upcoming venue with perfect architectural acoustics which further enhances the intimacy of the venue, which will fill a void in the community’s arts scene.

Although the town hosts an annual folk festival which draws in big crowds and has a jazz club which puts on regular shows, it lacks a venue fit for these types of events. For years, local musicophiles and art-lovers have had to hop on trains to travel to the neighbouring cities Glasgow and Edinburgh to see touring artists or leftist, specialised (music) events. As big venue spaces in the capital, such as Studio 24 on Calton Road, Grindlay Street’s Citrus Club, and Market Street’s Electric Circus closed up recently, this is the perfect time for Red Door to attempt to provide an eclectic mix of talent for the town’s inhabitants to enjoy right on their doorsteps.

Red Door as a brand is the brainchild of Stewart Veitch, a solicitor and trustee of the church, Robin Connelly,  who has a background in promoting small-scale events and jazz gigs at St James’ Church in Leith, and Rob Adams, a journalist and music critic. One of the co-creators, Stewart Veitch, explains how this will change both the church and the community: “I suppose it is about creating an identity, because for many people in the town, the church is just a red door on the high street, they don’t know what lies behind it, so this is an invitation for them to look behind it and see what is there.”

Red Door drew its first big crowd in with Richard Holloway’s book launch of ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’. The former Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh, who is also a broadcast journalist and author, was the first to baptise the church as a cultural venue to explain his exploration in prose of our fear of death. The event was organised in collaboration with Far From The Madding Crowd, the town’s local bookshop which was awarded  ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year for Scotland’ in 2017.

Sally Pattle, who owns the bookshop, commented on the collaboration: “At Far From The Madding Crowd, we are really excited about Red Door and what it means for Linlithgow. There is already a vibrant cultural scene here in the town, but Red Door are offering something slightly different in that there will be regular events for people to look forward to.”

Following this successful partnership, both local entities have decided to put their hands together once again for a music-cum-literary event. On Saturday, October 27, two of the most distinctive jazz guitarists in the UK, Don Paterson and Graeme Stephen, will help inaugurate Red Door as a musical venue. Aside from the concert, which will see the adventurous alliance explore melody and musical invention in a whole new setting, includes the book launch of Paterson’s latest book ‘The Fall at Home — New and Collected Poems.’

This event will be followed by an intimate gig with BBC Folk Award-winning singer-songwriter Chris Wood, whose first stop of his tour is the little burgh, and a look into different cultures with Jyotsna Srikanth, a superb violinist, who plays in the (Indian) Carnatic tradition. Veitch explains the importance of including touring and world-music artists: “We are setting up what we think are high-quality artists, who seem interested in being involved, almost to establish this as another gig on the circuit for similar acts. We are keen to see how these artists will respond to this place as well as how the local community will view it as an audience.”

Starting next year, the Red Door team is hoping to incorporate spoken word into its program, including hosting an event with Shore Poets, the main poetry collective in Edinburgh. When asked about how Red Door will establish itself from here on, Veitch added: “The initial splash of events are close together and we are hoping that, by doing so, we will establish an audience quite quickly. We want to draw in a listening audience and create social space to gather people, get them away from Netflix.”

Red Door is hosting events on Saturday October 27, Thursday November 8 and Wednesday November 28.

Scotland, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

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Sometimes my heart aches for Scotland’s forever oscillating music scene. If there was ever a time for a fresh face to reshape the musical landscape and pioneer the country’s music scene, it would have to be now. While T in the Park, Scotland’s largest exhibition of music, is in disarray, along with the abiding closures of several music venues outside Glasgow, we still have the few showcases that accentuate the many emerging artists waiting to become the next Biffy Clyro or Paolo Nutini.

Scotland has always had at least one artist of the moment. It was Bay City Rollers in the 70s, Simple Minds and Deacon Blue in the 80s, Primal Scream in the 90s, Travis dominating the millennium, and a sea of artists including Franz Ferdinand and The Fratellis during the indie explosion in the Noughties. CHVRCHES are arguably the Scottish band creating waves presently – selling out some of the most appraised venues in the world of ample capacities.

I reminisce of the time in adolescence when all millennials were experimenting with different types of music because of a current trend. Everyone can recall the first moment they heard the starting chord of ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz Ferdinand, the same buzz you got two years later when hearing ‘Henrietta’ by The Fratellis. It would put teenagers onto Talking Heads, Pixies or Squeeze – because having a music scene with vital culturally shifting bands allowed fans to listen to a direct trail back to what influenced an indie frenzy.

Foto: Silvio Tanaka - http://flickr.com/tanaka/

Franz Ferdinand live in South America. (Photo: Silvio Tanaka)

While indie was everyone’s new favourite genre, Scotland was the country to watch. What was next? Paolo Nutini, The View, Twin Atlantic, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Biffy Clyro making it big, for a start. Some of these bands are still arguably relevant, but what does Scotland have to show for it now? One relatively successful pop band and a surfeit of acts trying to replicate a fleeting musical movement that was completely hackneyed. For now, the last moment where Scotland could effectively boast about what has successfully derived from its music scene is Young Fathers winning the Mercury Prize.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of eclecticism going around in Scotland, a disparity of genres entering the fray across the country. There is just a lack of substance overall to pinpoint a selection of bands that are going to ‘make it big’. While many would claim that Scotland’s current crop yield a cause for satisfaction, there is a void inside the circle for something new to be truly celebrated.

But then I glance at local publications such as Tenement TV or Ravechild, doing their absolute hardest to inject some life into a stagnant market and reassure every music fan out there that Scottish popular music is not in dire straits. WHITE, Catholic Action, The Van T’s – they are all promising bands. Besides, it could only take one of these acts and beyond a single moment to propel. Maybe things are not as lifeless as it seems in Scottish music, but I still feel eerily melancholic.

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