May 012015
cahalenandeli new pic

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West are to appear at the Blue Lamp, Wednesday 6th May.

With thanks to Martin Raitt.

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West are, simply put, two of the most innovative and subtle roots musicians around. Their music draws from old folk sources, but it sounds vibrantly alive.
Cahalen Morrison writes songs that sound like a Cormac McCarthy novel: simple, beautifully crafted, and seemingly formed from raw natural elements.

Eli West brings jagged, angular arrangements based in bluegrass and old-time, but refracted through a 21st century lens.

Like Ansel Adams’ photography, their music is instantly accessible and built from the simplest materials, but at the same time seems to transcend its base fundamentals. Together, Cahalen and Eli tap the root of the old country and bluegrass duets. As the sparse landscapes of Cahalen’s vocals reflect the warm glow of Eli’s voice, it’s clear that this duo was made to sing together.

See a review of their appearance at the Salmon Bothy, Portsoy, written by David Innes for Aberdeen Voice.

Tickets are £10, and it’s sure to be a busy night.

Almost Blue Ticket Link
See Tickets Link
Facebook Event Page


Sep 122014

Robbie Shepherd, 2By Bob Smith.

‘Ay ay fit like e day?’
Comes oot o a nor’east mou
They’ll nae ask aboot the FTSE
Jist fits the price o a coo

Es wither his bin affa gweed
The barley’s in fine fettle
If tatties hud their price
The wife’ll git her new kettle

Are yer hennies aye still layin?
An tatties weel set in the dreel?
Man a wis noo jist thinkin
Yer calfies leuk affa weel

Nae funcy spik fae fairmin fowk
Jist stracht an ti the pynt
Incomers micht git offendit
Wi their nose pit oot o jint

Bit tak the fowk as ye fin ‘em
Git used ti their nor’east wyes
It’ll tak a file ti fill their beets
Ye micht struggle ti reach their size

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

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Aug 272013

With his first full length CD Do What You Love, recorded in Nashville, attracting considerable radio and media interest, Voice thought it a good time to send David Innes out to interview his fellow Banffshire native, Colin Mackay.  A Buckie loon and a Keith cyard meet without a fecht breaking out? The UN should take notes.

Colin MacKay 10

You’re still a bairn at 42, Colin. How long ago did you leave Buckie?

I left Buckie where I’d lived all my life when I was 18, to study at The Robert Gordon University.”

Was there always country or folk music on in the house as you grew up?

“There was always a lot of music in our house growing up. A huge eclectic range. My parents love so many different styles.

“My dad’s actually a trained tenor and I can remember going to see Handel’s Messiah where he was singing tenor lead. I sat at the back of the hall with a huge ghetto blaster recording it. I was only about 8 at the time. That guy Handel can write some nice melodies, I’m sure he’ll do well. 

“Dad still sings with Mario Janetta’s Big Band Sound, playing material in the style of Glen Miller, Count Basie, Sinatra and Dean Martin. Michael Buble has done a lot to make that style contemporary and popular in recent times.

 “I used to love going to rehearsals to watch the guitar players. I loved the melodies and how all the instruments gelled together, to produce that big band sound.

I’m sure that had an influence on me, although at the time I was struggling to play a B7 chord, and hadn’t even progressed to the mysteries of bar chords.”

The arrangements on Do What You Love are very full, come to think of it, but I’d never have picked up on a big band influence. What else has influenced you?

“I was only 6 when Elvis died (coincidentally we carried out the interview on the 36th anniversary of Elvis’s death), and that’s when things really took off. The TV was full of Elvis and that’s when I discovered my parents’ record collection – Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins. I wanted a leather jacket and a guitar!

“Similarly I was just 9 when John Lennon died, and I discovered The Beatles in the same way by digging into the records at home. Everyone else was into Duran Duran, and I’m obsessed by the White Album!

Colin MacKay 6

“I’ve always loved the raw energy that’s on those first 50’s Rock n Roll recordings. I find it totally infectious. I think if you don’t feel it you don’t have a pulse.

“In a similar vein The Rolling Stones are huge for me. I love how Keith Richards fuses rhythm and lead together and you can’t miss the Chuck Berry influence. I’m always picking things up from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and U2. I pick up other new influences all the time. But to make a great song, I feel you have to make the lyrics read like poetry, the melody make you want to whistle and the rhythm make you want to dance. Get that right, then you’ve got something.”

What about bands you played in when you were a loon?

“I first played with my good friends Frazer Clark, Alan Mo Morrison, and Graeme Slapp in a school band called Exodus. We played the local pubs and clubs and wedding dances from when we were about 14 and carried on through university. Peter McKay and James Alexander, our music teachers were a great help to us.

“Our high point came in 1987 when we were placed third out of 600 bands in the UK Battle of the Band Competition, TSB Rockschool. We were on TV and radio and thought we were going to be the next U2. That’s when my writing really got an airing as two songs in our set had to be originals.”

Colin’s big break and the route to recording Do What You Love in the country music capital came when he was in Fochabers, at the Moray village’s popular Speyfest. His Sun Studios t-shirt was spotted by Craig Duncan, a big name in bluegrass circles and they got on famously.

“He invited me to Nashville and I was introduced to Bil VornDick, a producer who works with household names like Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. He liked what he heard of my demos and asked me to return to record an album. This was a chance I couldn’t turn down as he’s always in demand to produce records for big names.

“We sent mp3s back and forth across the Atlantic before the recording and he put together a session band of some of the most talented musicians I’ve had the good fortune to work with. These guys have played with some of the biggest names in rock and country music and I was continually amazed by their ability to find exactly the right lick or tone and by their humour and humility.

“I’m delighted with the records and to see my own songs up there beside the names of some of Nashville’s best writers delights me.”

Colin MacKay 9Are there plans to record over there again?

“Nothing concrete yet, but I am hopeful that I can work with Bil again. We’re still in contact and it would be terrific with his contacts if one of the big Americana names picked up on one of my songs and recorded it.”

Given that you don’t really want to give up your day job, how do you fit in touring?

“I’ve always been able to juggle the two, so far. It takes a bit of planning and flexibility and I always travel with a guitar.

“One winter I was snowed in over in Applecross and I met a helicopter pilot who also was an accordion player. We had such a great time that we were hoping for more snow!”

Country’s been described as the white man’s blues – is this a fair assessment?

“Absolutely, you don’t only hear the music you have to feel the music. Hank Williams? Robert Johnson? It’s the same thing. You know that music is coming from the heart.”

I hear a lot of soul on your album – do you have influences from that direction too?

“I love all the stuff that came out of Stax in Memphis, and all the Motown stuff. Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, so many greats.

“I feel the album is more Southern Rock, with shades of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Eagles than strictly country. It was made in Nashville because that’s where my friends and contacts were, but there’s a lot more than country music coming out of Nashville. We used a pedal steel on the slow songs and that gives them a country flavour.

It’s amazing how just one instrument can change the style. I’d never worked with steel before and totally loved it. It did help that we had the legend that is Sonny Garrish on the session.”

Are there any particular Scottish or NE influences in your songwriting?

“We were influenced by NE giants Johnny and the Copycats. We supported them a few times, including their 25th anniversary gig. Now I believe they’ve recently been celebrating their 50th year playing. They were in Hamburg at the same time as The Beatles, and had a deal with EMI, a proper rock n roll band.

“I’m also friends with Gavin Sutherland, of the Sutherland Brothers who wrote Sailing among other greats. He records at the same studio as me and both of us are helped by the Beechwood Studio recording colossus that is James Hunter, one of the best sound engineers I’ve ever met.”

We’ve got a review copy of Do What You Love and it’s impressive. We’ll carry a review soon. It’s available from any CD stockist and as a download.

Thanks to Colin and to Martin at Birnam CD Ltd.

Aug 232013

Aberdeen Voice contributors and concerned local residents visited the public exhibition at the Menie Estate; the Trump Organisation launched a consultation for the proposed new MacLeod course – a course that will border the public Balmedie Park. A series of tall posters stood in a Stonehenge-esque semicircle; the first one announced that Trump International Golf Links Scotland welcomed us, that one of the goals was stakeholder engagement and that a team was on hand to answer any questions.  Suzanne Kelly gives her account of the visit.

Detail of display banner inviting visitors to ask questions of the TIGLS team.

Detail of display banner inviting visitors to ask questions of the TIGLS team.

If you had access to a car you might have made it to the Menie Estate for the public consultation on the 20th.  If not, and you didn’t want to walk 20 minutes each way to the exhibition, you were out of luck.

You would have driven by the overly large entrance sign, past the overly large looming clock, past the outsized (and garish it is nearly universally agreed) concrete fountain plunked in front of Menie House.

Driving past large bunds topped with turf squares (held in place by plastic pegs), you would not have seen Susan Munro’s home, which  hasn’t seen much light or any of the land and seascape since Trump had the bund erected. 

The turf squares on your side of the bund  while driving to the temporary(?) clubhouse  are matched by weeds and sand on her side.

Entering the large parking lot (which differs from the original approved plan), topped with strong, high lights (apparently higher and brighter than initially permitted) with more of those oversized clocks nearby, you would have walked past the temporary clubhouse to a temporary marquee, manned by a very oversized bouncer (who towered over me and I’m 5’11”) where the Trump organisation’s documents say they  wish to  ‘welcome’ you to the public consultation, and that they will answer questions.

How are the public treated when it comes to Trump planning applications ?  This video among others gives an idea.   That video was back in 2010 – but had anyone in the Trump camp gone to charm school in the interim?  Not so much.

The room’s occupants included our little party, a few others, a waitress, Sarah Malone, Martin Hawtree, the designer of the previous and proposed courses. Tables were adorned with golf magazines, pens and paper, and coffee in a far corner.  The centre was given over to the displays; some 12 or so panels approximately 2’ wide by 7’ tall.

The promised welcome didn’t exactly seem on offer to any of us. We must have missed some form of joke when we got in, for Sarah Malone Bates, VP at Trump, and a woman who refused to identify herself were by the door sharing an intimate laugh while coincidentally looking in our direction.

This anonymous woman was a spitting image of Anne Faulds, legal consultant from Dundas Wilson in Edinburgh, to Trump.

Bund obscuring Susan Munro's home from view.

Bund obscuring Susan Munro’s home from view.

Faulds was famously discovered  to be feeding a willing Christine Gore of Aberdeenshire Council Planning advice before the initial plan was approved – not exactly how things are meant to be done by a planning applicant.

Faulds was helping  Gore ‘manage public expectations’ – and many found this cozy relationship inappropriate http://www.probe-into-top-planners-collusion.


Faulds is also mentioned in conjunction with an attempt to ‘gag’ unsympathetic councillors –

After reviewing the dozen or so posters set up for the public to view, a number of questions arose based on their content.  At first it was not clear where  the proposed MacLeod course would end and the Balmedie County Park begin.  in order to read the printed ‘Balmedie County  Park’ label, I had to crouch down, for it was about 2-3” off the ground.

The font size was miniscule; the text was in faint grey.  Perhaps this has something to do with the Trump plan to build the course right up to the boundary of the Park. Future park users may well be advised to wear hard hats if they wish to avoid golf ball-related concussions.

One of the posters carries a statement that outdoor access rights don’t apply on golf courses; this is contrary to what I believe to be right.

Despite the early day promises that the courses and complex will mean millions to the local economy; only an additional 32 cars per hour are envisaged; there will not be any need for more road infrastructure it seems.

An additional environmental statement will be created.  The presence of otters and badgers is questioned (David and Moira Milne have a badger set on their property which the Trump organisation knows about from its tree planting activities), yet “A survey will confirm whether badgers are present on the Menie Estate.” appears on one of the posters.

The championship (first) course is mentioned frequently – but the Blairton Burn area collapse is omitted, as is MEMAG, the environmental group which is now in limbo.  These and other issues give me a few questions – questions which the final panel assures me the Trump organisation “hope you have taken the opportunity to discuss any issues.” and that I will use the comment form.  Question time it is, then.

This is my recollection of the ensuing question and (no) answer session.

As nature intended. Temporary marquee 230413

I poured myself a coffee (no one was going to offer us or invite us to help ourselves). Sarah Malone Bates was nearby; I asked her if someone is free to answer my questions.

I walked over to the round table next to the one the Trump team were seated at. Hawtree sits on my left; Fred Wilkinson stands over my right shoulder; Anne Faulds stands behind and to the left of Hawtree; Sarah Malone stands further to their left.

I ask how close the course is going to be to the public park.  “It’s on the map”, Faulds answers.

I say that no figures for proximity are shown, and the team confirms the course will go right up to the park  border.

I comment that some of the holes look very close to the water, and ask if there are concerns that there might be another course collapse like at the Blairton Burn.  Hawtree doesn’t know if this is possible or likely.  I get the distinct feeling this question has displeased them.

I asked about the claim of increased biodiversity.  Hawtree says there will be more wetlands; he adds:  “The pond has migrated”.

I ask about chemicals used on the estate / course.  Hawtree’s answer starts by discussing agricultural chemicals.  I ask about chemicals that would be used on the course not agricultural chemicals; he doesn’t know.  I ask what chemicals are currently being used on the first course.

“That is not  relevant”, is Faulds’ reply.

I ask the woman (Faulds) who has now interrupted Hawtree twice what her name is “so that I know who I’m talking to”.

“I’m not going to tell you”, Faulds replies; she is (in my opinion) incredulous that as a member of a team at a public planning her identity is being asked.  I recognise her anyway, and my belief in her identity is confirmed by others later.

“We don’t know who you are”, Sarah Malone says.

“I’m Suzanne Kelly from AV” (they all start talking at once) “I thought you knew that Sarah”, I add.

Malone says I can put my comments and questions on the form (NB there are only 7 days to comment)

access rights do not apply to golf courses

I reply: “Ok, but part of this [consultation] is that you will be available to answer questions”.  I explain that in the past my emails and questions haven’t been answered [I wrote directly to Hawtree in February of this year, and to the Trump Menie email address several times; I had also written to Sorial on occasion; he did reply].

I want to ask questions based on the displays.  “There is something interesting on one of the boards”,  I say; I ask Hawtree to come and have a look at this . The boards are about 8 paces from where we sit.

[I walk over.  I find I have not been followed; they are talking among themselves.  I go back over and ask Hawtree to come see what I am talking about]

Malone says, [something like you’re dragging people around…] “it’s not respectful to members of our team.  We know that you have a negative impression. Yes you do”.

I respond, “OK, I am not in favour of the course”.

Malone says, “You can be respectful.”

“I am being respectful”, I reply.  I explain that in order to ask my next questions I need to show Hawtree what  passages from their boards I wish to discuss.

One board has a sentence “The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states that access rights do not apply to golf courses”.  Having read a few versions of the code, this sentence is not familiar to me. Indeed, I am told that some Scottish courses openly welcome hikers and bicycle riders. I ask where the comment about access comes from.

“Page 7”, Faulds replies.  (I have since looked at the code, and done an internet search on the sentence to no avail.  If anyone from Trump is reading this, please do send me the Page 7 link you told me about, thank you).

no mention of the MEMAG collapse or what the implications are

I move further on towards the environmental boards.  Text indicates they will determine if there are badgers in the area.

Hawtree replies that they, “haven’t had the report back”.

Which leads me to MEMAG, the environmental group mandated to oversee the championship course and its environmental issues.  It fizzled out, and its status remains unclear.  I can’t say it did a bang up job.

I ask about MEMAG.  “I’m not party to that”, Hawtree replies

Faulds comes closer and asks, “What question is that?” I am fairly certain I heard Faulds say, “Don’t answer that”.

I ask “what environmental body will be the watchdog”. I mention MEMAG.

Hawtree replies “Aberdeenshire Council.”

There are lots of pictures of bird species; text about badgers and otters – and no mention of the MEMAG collapse or what the implications are for a second course.  I had been told that some area residents believe burrowing animals had been destroyed/gassed to create the first course.  I have still not found anyone to explain what did or did not happen.

Again, if anyone from the Trump organisation would like to set the record straight, please do get in touch.

Things were less than welcoming.  I indicated I’d put the rest of my questions in writing.

The P&J is already quoting its editor’s wife’s company as saying the “response so far has been favourable”. This is a quick turnaround indeed, with 6 days left to go, and the consultation not ending until 8pm last night.  Sadly, the P&J didn’t find space to record its relationship to Malone-Bates or to tell us how many forms had been submitted.

Thankfully, there is still time for those who could not make it to feed into the consultation. Those who wish to read the boards will not find them posted on the Internet by the Trump team, but Aberdeen Voice has captured the text and made a form available to you.

Visit this link; the form needs to be submitted to the Trump organisation (by post or email) within 7 days of the consultation.  It is vital that anyone with opinions, for or against the second course, writes to the Trump organisation as soon as they can.  A small sample may well be presented to the Shire as meaning ‘no one cares’, or that ‘no one has objections’.

Whatever your take on this, don’t be left out of this stage of the process just because you couldn’t get a lift to the exhibition.  Championship-hosting, environmentally sound, biodiversity increasing, employment creating MacLeod course?  My grandmother.

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Aug 152013

By Bob Smith.

Sunshine floodin throwe the windas
Fillin rooms wi its golden glow
Memories o the fairmhoose kitchen
Ma mither workin tae and fro’
Birdsong burstin fae the hedges
Cocks crowin at the open doors
Yet peace an quairt  wis aa aroon
As wi wint aboot oor chores
Faint ripplin fae the dam weir
As its watters spill’t intae the burn
The Ord  jined wi the Leuchar
Alang  its banks I kent each turn
A still can smell the new mown hey
An surroonded bi the clover
A lay and listen’t tae the laverock
As heich abeen me it did hover
Stirks’ breath in November frosts
Content in the coort they stey
Jist slowly stirrin fae their rest
Fin aetin their neeps and hey
Collies barkin at the merest soond
Their alert sinses at the ready
Thae sentinels faa kept ye safe
Faa’s devotion wis ayewis steady

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image:  Hay Stacks© Taseret | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Apr 052013

By Bob Smith.

A problem in rural Scotia
The scourge o modern day
Fan fowk faa hiv the money
Buy second hooses faar tae stay
Noo some young eens in the kwintraside
Leave skweel an wint tae bide
An gyaang tae wark near tae hame
Be it Skite or Deveronside
Bonnie hooses in rural villages
Snappit up bi fowk fae toons
Tae spend a wikk eyn or holidays
Oot-buyin local quines an loons
Holiday hames they are ca’ed
Faar ainers dinna bide at aa
Bit rint them oot tae tourists
Is iss nae bliddy eese ava
The young eens are the future
O the wee villages an toons
They’re haein tae leave the area
Cos o “second hame” bliddy goons
A hoose can be left empty
Fer wikks upon a time
Only bidden in noo an agin
Jist unused steen an lime
Holiday hames help oot tourism
Some fowk they div decree
Bit withoot a local population
The villages wull seen dee
© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Feb 022013

By Bob Smith.

A’ve ayewis spak the Doric
Sin a wis jist a loon
A dialect still weel loo’d
Fae the Spey tae Bervie toon

Fin a wis at the local skweel
In classrooms it wis banned
Ye were threatened wi the scud
Fit wid hae wairmed yer hand

Bit eence oot in the playgrun
It flowed oot o yer moo
An wi yer freens an neipers
Doric wisna thocht taboo

We canna lit iss language dee
It’s pairt an paircel o oor lan
The Doric an the North east
They aye gyang han in han

A’m  loathe tak in fit a’m hearin
Young fowk canna say “ch” as in loch
Fit’s the warld cumin tae
If ye canna git yer tongue aroon roch?

Doric wirds are mair expressive
Than onything else ye micht hear
Thunk hivvens fowk still spik it
In  kwintra placies like New Deer

The  braw wird  “dreich” a like
Instead o jist sayin “dull”
Or maybe gyaan “heelster-gowdie”
As ye tummle doon a hull

Robbie Shepherd he still spiks it
An a Doric sang he’ll sing
Sin the days o “The Garlogie Fower”
Iss chiel’s bin the Doric “king”

Lits aa fecht fer the Doric
Hae it taacht in aa the skweels
Instead o aa the lah-de-dahs
Thinkin the Doric is fer feels

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

Mar 302012

By Bob Smith.

On mither earth faar we div bide
Thingies noo are fair on the slide
On iss sphere in the universe
The gweed life noo is in reverse

Flora an fauna are aa in decline
As the human race dis undermine
The basics fer the warld’s survival
Yet maist fowk’s brains are in denial

We build an drill an pull oot trees
The polar regions nae langer freeze
The kwintraside noo aa tar scarred
As motorin groups they lobby hard

Mair an mair hooses biggit near toons
Coverin fertile fields we kent as loons
Rape an winter wheat full fairmer’s parks
Nae placies left fer the peesies or larks

Aathing noo maun be neat an tidy
In winter time things canna be slidie
If sna faas doon at the rate o faist
It’s look’t upon as bein a bliddy pest

Yet sna we need ti fill lochs an rivers
It melts in the hills an rins doon in slivers
So we can aa drink a draught o H20
The watter levels shudna be ower low

We cut doon rainforests so cattle can graze
Or palm ile is socht ti mak soap fer yer face
An fowk faa hiv bade in thae forests fer ‘ears
Throwen oot o their hames bi firms’ owerseers

Mither Earth provides us wi aa wi need
Sustainable? Aye bit nae fin there’s greed
We maun use less of fit Mither Earth dis gie
Some fowk in oor warld iss they canna see

I hiv some hope Mither Earth wull survive
As the younger fowk weel they div strive
Ti gither an protest aboot fit’s aa gyann on
Mither Earth micht yet see a brand new dawn.


© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2012


Image Credits:
GRASSHOPPERS © Steffen Foerster | 
PLANET EARTH © Foto_jem |

Mar 152012

By Bob Smith.

A’ve aywis likit the kwintraside
Born an brocht up on a fairm
Faar as a bairn a cwid wanner
An nae cum ti ony hairm

Doon the wye fae oor hoose
Wis a burn fit’s ca’ed the Ord
Sittin on its bonnie banks
A nivver wid be bored

Twa railway sleepers war laid doon
As a crossin ti oor neebors parks
An on iss bittie slabs o widd
A sat listenin ti the larks

The Ord cam oot the nearbye dam
Faar twis rumoured pike war seen
Mony’s the time a wint fishin there
Wi string, wirms an bent peen

In warm simmer days a paddled
Some bandies in a jar a’d trap
Syne studyin them fer a fyle
Afore back in the burn they’d drap 

Sometimes I aet ma denner
Doon b’ the burn o Ord
Fine sandwiches an bannocks
Wi ale fae yon Bon Accord

Lyin on the grassy banks
Peerin up at cloods abeen
Watchin the odd antrin plane
Fleein ower b’ Aiberdeen

Noo an agin there wid be a splash
Fit slippit oot o its burnbank hole?
Maybe Kenneth Grahame’s “Ratty”
Better kent as a watter vole 

The Ord it jined the Leuchar Burn
Slowly wannerin its wye ti Culter
Faar the statue o Rob Roy stauns
Wis he a hero or jist a looter?

It wis on the banks o the Ord
A learnt fit naitur’s aboot
Ma love o the kwintraside cairries on
O aat there is nae doot 

© Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie”2011

Sep 152011

By Richard Pelling.

In Town Without My Car Day takes place every September in cities across Europe (and beyond) is an event designed to promote awareness of alternatives to the car for accessing city centres and serves to promote sustainable transport that can help reduce pollution in the urban environment.  It forms an element of European Mobility Week – but will we see In Town Without My Car Day in Aberdeen this year? NO.

‘What about Getabout’s Belmont Bike Festival ?’,  you say – well; few would consider that an ITWMC Day and the sorry tale of how this event came to be held onBelmont Street serves to highlight Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to sustainable transport and the environment.

For background, lets consider Report EPI/11/140

This was presented at the Aberdeen City Council Enterprise, Planning & Infrastructure (EP&I) Committee Meeting on 24th May 2011, which suggested thatAberdeen host an ITWMC event in 2011 and requested that Union Terrace be the venue :

“Union Terrace remains the optimum location given the nature of the space required, the potential to use Union Terrace Gardens for some elements, the visibility of the event and the significant footfall that will be attracted and the fact that the Council already has special event temporary traffic management measures in place for the regular closing of Union Terrace for the International Street Market, and members of the public and transport operators are familiar with such diversions.”

Sounds great – Union Terrace is, of course, regularly closed for the commercial streetmarket that runs Friday – Sunday, so there should surely be no issues with closing it to hold this important one day environmental event and the proximity of Union Terrace Gardens gives extra space for say, cycling demonstrations, discussions of the visionary proposals for a Denburn Woonerf etc.

Union Terrace is also ideal as it is itself part of National Cycle Route 1 which in addition to being a popular commuter route in town, runs all the way from Dover to John o’ Groats (then on to Orkney and Shetland via the ferry). Sounds like it should be a done deal, but, EPI/11/140 goes on to say :

“Should the Committee feel that the impact on the road network and the travelling public will be such that they cannot support such an event on Union Terrace, officers will instead initiate proceedings to hold a smaller-scale event on Belmont Street on Saturday 17th September (although September 24th is the preferred date for the event, Belmont Street is hosting the Aberdeen Country Fair that day).”

So if the optimum location at Union Terrace – which can be shut on a weekday and all weekend for the street market – can’t be used the event will be held on Belmont Street … but not on the ideal date as that street is already closed for a regular street market then.

In fact, not only is Belmont Street already pedestrian-dominated (so it’s hardly a major concession to close it for a day), the council’s website notes that Belmont Street will beclosed at regular intervals throughout 2011 – indeed 24th September, 29th October, 26th November, 3rd, 10th, 17th & 24th December are already listed (no mention of 17th September yet though ??).

This point is noted in the original report which states :

“Although this would not strictly qualify as an In Town Without My Car Day event, as it would take place on a predominantly pedestrianised street, and would be of a significantly lesser scale, the space available should be such that some of the proposed attractions could still take place and the event should still be visible enough to attract a large number of visitors.”

Yes indeed, having the event on Belmont Streetwould not constitute a true ITWMC event.

In fact, looking at Section 4 of EPI/11/140 we see just how little commitment to the event there is. In Section 4.1 we read

“the closure of Union Terrace will involve the temporary rerouting of motor vehicles”

Well yes, isn’t that the whole point of closing off a street FOR ONE DAY a year?

“Public transport operators have been consulted on this proposal and they have significant concerns, stating the location is inopportune because of the disruption this will cause to bus services”

Disruption? That’s rich coming from First Aberdeen – look how they just closed the Bridge of Don Park & Ride site from 5th – 10th September. On another note, do you think bus operators want people to get into the habit of cycling into town?

(4.2) “The closure of Belmont Street would have minimal impact on traffic movements as vehicular access to Belmont Street is restricted and no public transport services use the street”.

(5.6) “… Closing the road on a weekend day should also limit any inconvenience to commuters and businesses.”

The minutes  of the EP & I Meeting of 24th May 2011,record that the committee resolved:

 “to support Aberdeen City’s participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011” – though evidently just as long as it didn’t inconvenience them too much! They also resolved to “instruct officers to initiate proceedings to close Belmont Street for a smaller scale event on Saturday, 17 September, and that the Head of Planning and Sustainable Development clarify whether this would still meet the requirements for participation in the European Mobility Week and In Town Without My Car Day 2011“.

So we end up with the Belmont Bike festival.

I hope the event is a great success but think it could have been so much more. Keeping cars off what is an effectively pedestrianised street for a few hours on a Saturday really sums up Aberdeen City Councils level of commitment to the whole notion of cycling as a form of urban transport.