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Mareel - Cinema & Music Venue


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Well, I’ve just got back from the meeting.


It was a bit of a shambles. The points for the ‘against’ group were badly presented. It was based on misconceived half-truths.


They (the publicans) claimed that their main bone of contention was how much it was going to cost the public purse. Surely the effect on their own purse should have been more important to them. They seemed to try and put across the point of view that they were there for the public good……I for one would have been happier listening to the argument that it was going to affect their businesses…. If they are so concerned about the cost to Shetland why didn’t they speak out against the new museum??


A panel of local publicans bemoaning the effect on the public purse is a poorly conceived smokescreen for their own ends. Honesty would have been a much more laudable tactic and would have gained them much more support.


On the subject of the public purse I think some facts should be looked at. The Council receives a chunk of money each year from the Scottish Exec for normal Council business (roads, social work, education etc). The council then supplements that pot with council tax. The Council currently overspends on these services and this deficit is paid for by the Council’s reserves which have accumulated from oil revenue. This fund pays for all the ‘other’ things that the Council does. This fund generates surpluses through returns on investment (locally and the stock market). It is from this fund that any spend on a music venue would come from.


The publicans were banding around the figure of £80,000 per year revenue cost to public each year if the venue goes ahead as some exorbitant amount. £80,000 is not even peanuts when compared to what the Council and it’s Trusts spend on other services. I’m not sure what the annual revenue spend on sporting facilities is but I’ll bet it is several million pounds. I’m not saying that’s bad….its a good thing. £80,000 from my point of view is actually a really good investment when you consider the educational and music development aspect of the new venue. There is more chance of Shetland getting more economic benefit through better musicians than there will ever be by any professional sportsperson.


Davie spoke from the floor – when he got a chance – and made a much better and professional job at countering the allegations. However, he was obviously getting a bit worked up through it all. Its understandable…he has spent a lot of time on this project.


So did the meeting help the ‘no vote’……certainly not! The meeting was poorly attended for a start. There was nothing said by the publicans that could be classed as a decent argument and in my opinion they missed a great opportunity to remove the venue from the agenda. The only reasonable point they did make was that that there are other buildings which could be used for music purposes, but they didn’t make the point clearly. They focused on negative rhetoric instead of providing positive solutions..


In my opinion what they should have focused on was:-


1. The new venue is going to jeopardise their businesses. There main focus should have been that it was not right that a publicly subsidised venue should be allowed to compete against non subsidised private businesses. This would have gotten them all the support they needed. I for one wouldn’t like to see any business go bust because the council was bankrolling a similar venture.

2. They should have come with constructive proposals and taken a positive approach.

3. The business proposal is at the root of the problem. A clear message that everybody does not have faith in the business case would have at the very least forced the discussion to be opened again. If the Councillors feel that the business case has to be re-examined then they are very likely to differ any decision until all the facts are known.


I still think that the music venue has too many unknowns to get my support. I don’t think it is legally or morally right to open a subsidised venue in a place as small as Shetland.


I think the perfect solution is to (as the publicans put badly) use the current buildings.


The North Star is the perfect size for a venue in Shetland. It could be gutted and opened again with the balcony….a 500 capacity venue in the middle of Lerwick. It wouldn’t breach any anti competitive laws because the venue already exists. It could be used as is on a Friday and Saturday night and could be used for films or special interest music through the week and on Sunday. It would cost considerably less than £9m. I can’t see anything more than £1m. The educational aspect of the proposed new venue could be done by the Shetland College on campus in a new building that wouldn’t cost much and could be used for other courses…..Shetland College is apparently bursting at the seams so some investment on new teaching facilities will be required soon anyway. That leaves recording studios….I’m sure somewhere in Lerwick could be found for this if the need arises.


Anybody else in my gang???

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No. I think the 'no' case is still substantial but if it has to rely on Lerwick's publicans to convey the reasons against, then Davie might as well get his shovel out and start on the founds next weekend.


The arguments they used were poorly constructed, poorly researched and poorly executed.


It was a panel consisting of Tammy from the Noost, Morag McLeod, the manager of the Legion (canna mind her name), Phillip Manson, Iain Johnston and Michael Johnston from Grays. It was Iain and Michael that were doing most of the speaking.


I would have said there was about 40/50. That included a small delegation from the Arts Trust.

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Guest Anonymous

I think most folk know how a pub makes its money.


Shetland has an extremely vibrant music scene and could do with a decent concert venue, (not a pub) to enhance the cultural scene in Shetland and to provide a facility that benefits the whole community. This isn't just about pub age folk and those regular customers in bars.


The music scene found in Shetland today has not just happened overnight, but has been created and developed by individuals and organisations with a bit of vision and passion for the music and a commitment to seeing it develop and be taken to new levels. Thanks to folk with vision and drive, one springing to mind and a good example is the late Tom Anderson. Thanks to him we still have an indigenous Shetland Fiddle music tradition, world recognised. Today it is healthier than ever, although it has taken several decades of support and investment in music education funded by the Council to generate and maintain this community asset, don't let it be taken for granted.


Voluntary organisations such as the folk society, Shetland Folk Festival, Shetland Fiddle and Accordion club, to name a few have inspired local musicians to try new ideas and develop their skills and broaden their minds. The Shetland Arts Trust have been operating a music development program which now see's a number up and coming Shetland artists making their name on the international traditional music scene. Many acting as good ambassadors for Shetland around the globe. These people are nurtured at home and with the proper facilities this is an area that can be developed into a small but successful industry. This can have a much larger spin off value for Shetland on the back of publicity generated in the international touring of successful bands and sales of CDs. Increased recognition of Shetland products and Shetland as a recognised destination, a place to visit.


Closer to home the Arts Trust have coordinated Fiddle Frenzy and other local events. These are examples of cultural activities that are taking off, that do generate interest for visitors to come to Shetland, as well as more for locals to do and more trade over the bar for pubs. Local musicians regularly play in several of the bars in Lerwick as part of their recreation, in informal sessions, very few paid, perhaps an odd pint over a night and help boost the sales no end in some establishments. The Arts Trust proved this by supporting the simmering sessions. These music sessions won't stop with a venue but will be more frequented with visiting artists checking out the pubs in Lerwick and meeting in with locals for a tune, yarn and a dram. Don't underestimate the value of the tourist trade during week days in the summer in Lerwick pubs. Events organised such as the Tall Ships, Festivals on the pier, Inter Club, Folk Festival, Up Helly A', the list goes on etc. All cultural events supported by the community and quite often with back up from the Arts fraternity and countless local musicians. These have huge spin offs for the local publicans, it is not long before the council is inundated with applications to consider late opening at pubs in Lerwick during all these cultural events, as there is money to be made in spin off trade.


The music venue would provide a focus for Shetland culture, a home for the arts in Shetland, complementing its neighbour, the new Shetland Museum and Archives. These facilities will enhance Shetland as a place to live year round and give a much need boost to the social scene in Lerwick for the whole community not just those folk that go to the pubs. It will also provide the country venues with access to bands performing at the new Lerwick one which they otherwise couldn't afford. This will be a high quality venue with good acoustics and space suitable for a diverse range of musical performances, which can be heard and appreciated sounding at their best. The venue will program for concerts in a wide range of tastes and audiences, as you find in Shetland. There will be facilities for practice rooms and recording sessions. The prestige of a custom built venue and good marketing could attract Live broadcasts of concerts and who knows Aly Bain may host his next TV series here, or perhaps an up and coming artist, his first TV series, from Shetland (serious potential for revenue). These all raise the profile of Shetland and assist in developing the islands culture and tourism.


One thing for sure is that one spin off will most likely be more punters in the toon to be attracted into Lerwick pubs of a night. An actual reason to go out in Lerwick, through the week as well, as weekends. Restuarants and take aways, chip shops etc. will surely get more trade with folk making a night out or attending a matinee. Most are within easy walking distance of the proposed venue site.


I think you should have a bit of vision and do some creative thinking for once. Thank goodness the Shetland music scene wasn't left to the vision of a modern day Lerwick publican. Stick to the pub trade. If you think hard times are coming the last thing you want to do is to stagnate and sit back and winge. The Council will make a wise decision to invest in the music venue and in doing so enhance Shetland's cultural development, assist in diversifying the economy and make it a better place for people to stay.


End of discussion, might go out for a pint or a tune, then again................



A piece asside:


I don't know what pub you own, you may be one of the exceptions but I think most publicans could do alot more to increase the numbers of people going out in Lerwick at nights and not just at weekends, and generally spruce up their premises, making them attractive to go into and comfortable, some have done very little investment since opening. Some good advice to most would be refurbishment when the no smoking ban comes in, the lack of fag reek will no doubt uncover alot of smells previously disguised and the clear air may reveal the tattiness of the pub interior, there are a few! acceptions. So a bit more than a lick of emulsion over the woodchip required and you may encourage some of those potential customers who are presently not bothering to go out and are entertaining in the comfort of their own homes. The numbers could be considerable.


Do you know anything about my business? I employ several full and part time staff. I can assure you all that I am not scaremongering anyone. I financed this business myself I have never had any council handouts and making a living and employing my staff is becoming harder and harder. I pay rates which in turn helps finance the council and if I see that the council is setting up a venue which on occassion will run in direct competition to me of course I am going to have to complain. I can assure you the way things are going there will be staff cuts.Whats the difference if the council set up a cookery centre and had a bakery in it. Would all the bakers not be up in arms.But looking at the hard facts Shetland cannot afford to fund this project

We are facing very bleak times with drastic cuts in public spending already. So think about it?

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One thing for sure is that one spin off will most likely be more punters in the toon to be attracted into Lerwick pubs of a night. An actual reason to go out in Lerwick, through the week as well, as weekends. Restuarants and take aways, chip shops etc. will surely get more trade with folk making a night out or attending a matinee. Most are within easy walking distance of the proposed venue site.


There is more to Shetland than just Lerwick. Too much activity is becoming centred on Lerwick to the exception of everywhere else. This is why we are having to fund initiatives out of town to try to encourage business to grow there.


The arguments against having it out of town will undoubtedly include lack of transport links. Let's invest in some of them too.


Sadly the venues that we have are all too under-utilised and under-supported by the population here. Just because you may be dead keen on it doesn't mean the rest of us are. The rest of us will undoubtedly have to fund this though when you dont draw in the numbers that you think you will.


I have little sympathy with the licensed trade. I have no wish to sit in dingy and smoky dens. If they are all doing so badly why aren't the pubs closing down and why aren't they looking for more profitable ventures?

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I'm not that knowledgable on the finer details of the North Star's structure, so I'm not asserting anything here, just offering a couple of points for discussion.


Firstly, is it not the wrong shape for a good concert hall? Good sounding venues need to be much longer and narrower. I'm not an acoustic designer but I can also see problems with the balcony position. The building's just not designed for this purpose.


Secondly, and I do have experience in this area, designing and installing AV systems in old buildings is usually much more expensive than accomodating them into designs for new buildings.

The cost will of course depend on exactly what kind of system is installed, but I'm hearing talk of large scale PA, lighting rigs, audio and video recording and broadcast. That's a lot of gear and a lot of control systems.


I don't think you should be so sure that the North Star would be a cheaper alternative. Has anyone looked into this?


Also, you talk of new buildings at Shetland College and a seperate recording studio. All this is going to cost money as well. And seperating everything surely defeats one of the principle purposes of the venue, which is, as I understand it, to provide a centralised focus for music/art development.

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Guest Anonymous

if shetlanders want a music venue and cinema, they should approach or be approached by private backers/firms, not rely on handouts and subsidies. edinburgh/glasgow/aberdeen/orkney etc etc dont have to have a 5 year debate on whether to open a cinema or not, someone comes in and says, heres the cash, this is viable, - enjoy your film!!!!!!!




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I can totally understand why Shetlanders are anxious about the financial aspects of the building. It's a lot of money IF it goes wrong. But surely all the negative and hostile attitudes towards such a plan can only increase this possibility?


As has been pointed out, the venue will not be financed entirely from council money anyway. Also, the money for such a venture comes from funds seperate from education or housing for example, which I understand can ring-fence their finances?


If there was a more cost effective way to achieve this project that would be fantastic. So far I haven't heard any clear alternatives, which is something the council and arts trust have surely researched carefully.


I'm with the opinion that there's no reason that the venue should jeopardise existing pubs and facilities. The nature of the venue/arts centre is of a completely different kind. I do think such a venture could increase business for publicans, and that may entail a degree of acceptance and adaption but surely that's a positive thing?It could provide a welcome boost to Shetland's nightlife.



I'm very proud of the sense of history and passion that Shetlanders have in regards to music and arts. I think this is an area that deserves to be embraced and given the best opportunity to develop. The educational and community based plans for the venue could be a promising source. I agree with Joanne Jamieson's view in the Shetland Times that 'cultural tourism is one area that Shetland could excel in', and the centre could well provide the support this achievement requires.

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Guest Anonymous

In my opinion, a few pubs could do with closing down in Lerwick, take a look at it. In around an 1k stretch we have Boating Club, Queens, Flints, Noost, Lounge, Thule, Posers, North Star and Baroc. Then slightly outta the way, Marlex & Legion.


Is that not a wee bit of overkill?


I really do not see how publicans can moan about this. I am pro-venue, only for the fact that I think an alternative thing "to do" in Lerwick would be very desirable. I however, do not think the financial cons would not be as considerable to the community as the "against" camp are making. If indeed and 80,000 running cost per year is incurred, this would be nothing - as mentioned by an above poster. Really, what can pubs moan about? Competition is healthy, nobody has a right to stay in business. Some of the pubs are nowt more than drinking dens - why should these places have a right to stay open. If Shetland is ever going to evolve as a place/community, we need competition in all aspects of service.


I still however, fail to see how a new cinema and music venue would take away business from pubs. Not noticeably anyway. Someone earlier pointed out the cinema will have a bar. So what? I have never seen anyone in a UGC/Odeon south that have come out of a bar there drunk. It's a much more social thing - a pint after a movie then home - why don't you go moan at the door of Somerfield fro selling alcohol cheaper than what you sell. My point is that pubs/cinemas are totally different scenes and are really not in direct competition.

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Once again, I will repeat myself......!


People keep saying that the new venue will bring more people into the town and will increase trade for the existing pubs.


WHERE are all these extra people coming from and WHERE are they getting all their extra spending money?


Shetland has a small population. It doesn't get passing trade. Its industries are on the decline. Rent, council tax and fuel bills are all on the increase - when's the last time SIC employees, for example, had a pay rise?


Incomes are going down and the cost of living is rising. People have to decide whether they can pay their living costs or have a social life.


The population is on the decline but a new purpose built venue is not going to persuade people to move here. Be realistic. Island life is not for everyone. By its very nature it is a remote and expensive place to be. You would have to really want to be here to live here. Are you really telling me that a cinema/music venue is a major factor when deciding whether or not to come here?


I work for Islesburgh so I have experience in the running costs involved for the Garrison Theatre. It is not used full time, either for live theatre or films. It cannot be, as it cannot afford to be. Do you have any idea the losses it makes every year? The films do not pay for themselves and theatre companies are a joke if you're looking to make a profit.


Surely if there was a need for a full time cinema, Islesburgh would have looked at showing more films each month? As it is, their attendances are declining year on year. I know the seats are not the best, but that is easily sorted and for a lot less money than the new venue will cost. They already have Dolby Surround Sound.


Will the new venue be able to show new films? I very much doubt it. At the moment the Garrison can as they use Filmobile, a touring cinema operator, who hires the films and shows them around his circuit, thus getting the guaranteed numbers he has to provide to be able to get new films. If you want a film just for a weekend you have to wait until all the mainland cinemas have had it and a print is available, often waiting months - look at Orkney. The way he does it, he can have Harry Potter here BEFORE its national release date (and he did!).


I don't have much experience in the music industry but I know there are many many venues the lenghth and breadth of Shetland that are perfectly adequate. We don't need world class facilities. We should be glad of what we have. Update what needs updated. Stop the council blowing their reserves (our money) for once.


Sorry for the huge rant, had to get it off my chest!!

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There were 91 (I checked at the door) people at the meeting last night and a large percentage of them made no comment but then in my experience this isn't unusual at meetings in Shetland where the majority tend to sit in silence. I have to say the applause was louder when those 'anti' the venue had made a comment than when those who were 'pro' had spoken. But that's just my opinion.


When the issue of the Western Isles venue asking their council for more money after 4 months of operation came up, Davy Gardner said that this had come about because poor consultation at the start had resulted in £75,000 of unexpected costs at the start of the project but that the consultants had learnt from the mistakes made and they wouldn't be made here. Oh how almost everyone laughed.


Why anyone should be surprised that the new venue will run at a loss is beyond me. IMO, the figure of £80,000 which has been bandied about is an underestimate. The Arts Trust have organised many events over the years - I'd like to know how many of them have broken even let alone made any money. And they're going to be responsible for running the new venue.


I just don't think we need the 'gold-plated' version which is on offer here as I don't think it's sustainable in the long term. I think all the things this new venue is supposed to be going to provide can be achieved for a fraction of the cost using existing facilities.


Also, no one has explained to me yet why given the proposed location the concerns which led to the refusal of Shearers Ice Factory becoming a nightclub a few years ago are apparently no longer an issue, when as far as I can see they're as 'relevant' as they were then. As I remember it they were:-


1) drunk people falling into the sea and drowning

2) lack of car parking facilities

3) police concerns about residential and commercial properties in the vicinity and 4) their forces being spread more thinly around the town.


At the end of the day the council's funds of money aren't infinite but we continue to spend as if they are.

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