You gotta fight for your right to party

The finality of this Six Feet Under slogan seems apt in a year where Scotland’s music fans are already reeling from the loss – or impending loss – of two Edinburgh venues (Cabaret Voltaire and The Bongo Club), two BBC Radio Scotland shows (Janice Forsyth and Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering), two decent bands (The Dykeenies and Pareto), one independent Glasgow club night (Pin Up Nights) and the ability to host free events without coughing up more than £100 to the council for a Public Entertainment Licence (see petition).

There is some positive news to offset the bad, though. While The Bongo Club fights eviction and G1 Group’s “retro arcade game/Lego-themed” refurbishment of the soon-to-be-rechristened Cabaret Voltaire looks like being the makeover from hell, The Liquid Room is opening two new venues at its existing site this year. The first, called The Annexe, will host regular 250-capacity club nights from February 25 (info/tickets), while the second is expected be ready in the latter half of 2012 and will see its basement converted into another live music space.

Futhermore, The Assembly Bar, which adjoins The Third Door, will open in spring under a new name after undergoing a revamp which will include a stage for acoustic musicians.

As for the furore over the axing of Janice Forsyth and Mary Ann Kennedy’s shows, well, if the Save BBC Introducing campaign has taught me anything, it’s that making a fuss makes a difference – whether it be signing a petition, emailing politicians, or even just ‘liking’ a Facebook campaign. Sheer strength of numbers and strength of feeling really can persuade those who make unpopular decisions to have a rethink.

Jeff Zycinski, head of radio at BBC Scotland, was good enough to answer a few questions I put to him on this matter.

How important were current audience listening figures for the shows in relation to the decision to scrap them?
“Listening figures are, of course, taken into consideration but that’s not the only factor. In any case I always look at long-term trends rather than the quarterly Rajar [audience measurement] reports. Here, the changes are part of the strategy we have agreed with the BBC Trust. In the Trust report it was noted that the variety of content and the shift from one genre to another probably leads to lower listening hours. And we do know that Radio 2 is a big draw for Scottish listeners in daytime hours. The Trust has been keen to ensure that BBC stations don’t offer overlapping content and that our content is distinctive. That’s the main reason for the change. We are moving towards offering more speech in daytime and specialist music in the evening.”

Was the decision to make these changes prompted by directives from London?
“No, the BBC doesn’t work that way. We draw up the strategy in Scotland based on our research and the Trust take a view on it. It’s their job – alongside the Audience Council for Scotland – to represent the views of all licence-fee payers… including those who aren’t listening. The Trust always want to ensure that, with tighter budgets, we don’t compromise on quality. So we’re reconfiguring our evening music output to ensure that each programme has sufficient resources to include live music, exclusive sessions, concerts from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and coverage of festivals like Celtic Connections. Sadly, that means we’re losing Global Gathering from that mix.”

The cuts have been met with petitions/Facebook groups/political pressure – are these people wasting their time in hoping for a reprieve or would you reconsider the decision to scrap the shows if there was a strong enough groundswell of feeling/public opinion against the changes?
“As I say, we always look at things in the longer term so when we make a change to the schedule we will review the impact over the course of a year. We would look at all the audience research at that point. By that time listeners would have a chance to hear the new line-up of programmes and tell us what they think.”

If this is something you feel strongly about, check out the Janice Forsyth show petition and the Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering show petition.

Cabaret Voltaire’s last-ever event is Karnival club night on February 25 (tickets), while Pin Up Nights’ final two events at the Flying Duck are ‘Ladies Night’ featuring Kid Canaveral, The Plimptons, Fanny Pelmet And The Bastard Suits and Wild Beasts (DJ set) on February 24 (tickets), followed by ‘Game Over’ featuring Miaoux Miaoux and Sonny Marvello (and possibly Jarvis Cocker – see petition) on March 30 (tickets).

Finally, here are my favourite songs by The Dykeenies and Pareto to remember them by now that they’ve split up (I’m guessing their fans were too petitioned-out to launch a ‘please reconsider’ campaign):

The Dykeenies – Sounds Of The City

Pareto – Paint Them Silver

UPDATE: The Dykeenies have announced a farewell gig at Glasgow’s QMU on May 19.

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