Jul 282018
 

The Granite City’s Urban Festival ‘True North’ Announces 2018 Bill. By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the heart of the city returns for its fourth year this September for a weekend of unmissable music.

The festival, running from the 20th to 23rd September, has announced an eclectic and exciting bill of talent for what promises to be another triumphant event.

His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre will provide performances from Mogwai, Tracyanne & Danny, The Magic Numbers. Mull Historical Society and Glasvegas, among others, whilst a further programme of artists and free events in unique locations across the city will be announced soon.

The events announced so far are:

  • Tracyanne & Danny – The Tivoli – Friday 21st Sept.
  • The Magic Numbers – The Lemon Tree – Friday 21st Sept.
  • Mogwai – His Majesty’s Theatre – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • David Bowie Tribute (Curated by Camille O’Sullivan) – His Majesty’s Theatre – Sunday 23rd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Sunday 23rd Sept.

The Lemon Tree will also host the opening concert on Thursday 20th September with a soon to be announced bill featuring some of the country’s leading new rock bands.

Tickets for each event can be purchased online at http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/, in person from The Lemon Tree or the Box Office, HMT or by phone on 01224 641122.

Read the Aberdeen Voice’s review of the 2017 event here.

View a gallery of photographs from 2017 here.

Sep 222017
 

Review and Photography by Craig Chisholm.

As the darker nights draw in at the start of September, there was still time for one more music festival in Scotland. But, unlike your TRNSMT’s, Enjoy Music’s and Electric Field’s, this was one that didn’t require waterproofs and sunscreen as it wasn’t outdoors but in the more comfortable surroundings of His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre, right here in the heart of town.

True North is now in its third year and has drawn at eclectic range of artists over the years – from Tom O’Dell to Richard Hawley, King Creosote to Laura Mvula, a Neil Young Tribute to a night of Kate Bush songs.

This year continues that eclectic mix with sets from Arab Strap, Pictish Trail, Public Service Broadcasting, Wild Beasts and 2015 Scottish Album of The Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

And this year’s tribute? A evening of Fleetwood Mac songs that included a full live performance of their classic, mega selling 1977 album ‘Rumours’.

Pictish Trail at The Lemon Tree.

As well as the main headlining sets the festival also offered a range of fringe events for all ages – acoustic performances at the Maritime Museum by Pictish Trail and Neon Waltz; gigs at local record shop & bar, Spin, by The Great Bear, Willson Gray, Katie Mackie, The Sea Atlas and Leanne Smith; talks and panel discussions at the Lemon Tree and, most impressively, a Sunday afternoon gig for children aged 9-12 at the Lemon Tree featuring Be Charlotte and Findlay Napier – one that even provided a day care crèche in the bar downstairs for adults whilst the kids rocked out upstairs.

Lunchtime sessions at The Lemon Tree also had The 101, Harmonica Movement and The Deportees play sets for those that like a bit of music whilst having a drink and bite to eat.

It’s the headline events that are the big draw though – and these kicked off on Thursday evening at the grand environs of His Majesty’s Theatre as Public Service Broadcasting and BDY_PRTS played to a large crowd of theatre goers and rock fans.

Support act BDY_PRTS, dressed in matching eye catching yellow and green outfits are a beguiling mixture of indie pop tunes mixed with Bjork style weirdness and some nifty choreography.  

The female duo, consisting of former Sparrow & The Workshop singer Jill O’Sullivan and ex-Strike the Colours musician Jenny Reeve – who has also guested on tracks by artists such as Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section, Idlewild and Snow Patrol among others.

With a new album, due later in the year, you’d be wise to check the band out as their infectious, quirky songs will see them go from strength to strength in time.

Headliners Public Service Broadcasting are no strangers to Aberdeen, this being their fourth visit to town.

However, the crowd at His Majesty’s Theatre is much larger than the previous concerts at The Lemon Tree.

Not that this daunts them – they’re a much more polished act, used to the big stage and more confident than the they were on earlier visits, three or four years ago, when promoting their debut album.

Since their last visit, they’ve released a further couple of albums – 2015’s ‘The Race for Space’ and this year’s ‘Every Valley’, which is a concept album based on the Welsh Mining Industry.

If that seems to be quite a dry and boring idea for an album then you’d be wrong, as the band mix spoken word samples from old film and radio with a light, Kraftwerk-esque, danceable pop sheen.

There’s a pathos and depth to their music that can be sometimes be lost by instrumental electronic bands. But you can dance to it as well – although in the all seated environs of HMT there’s no real rush to do this by all audience members. But, by the end, the crowd are on their feet in rapturous applause as the band power through set filled with tracks such as ‘Progress’, ‘Go!’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Everest’ from their three studio albums.

Special mentions must also go to the horn section and the spaceman that appear onstage with the band for their own individual brand of enthusiastic dancing.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we see them back in town.

The night isn’t over yet though. For the brave, foolhardy and those without work the following day, there’s still a late-night gig at The Lemon Tree to attend.

Those quick enough to hot foot in down from HMT would have hopefully been able to catch the bulk of C.Macleod’s opening set. Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, the singer songwriter is alone on stage with only his electric guitar and rootsy, raw vocals to fill the space.

And it’s the voice that grips you – a deep rasp that has hints of Springsteen, the authentic roar of heartfelt Americana and the raging howl of the seas of his native shores in there. It’s a voice that has no business coming from someone so young – it’s the sound of experience and age. Check him out now before he goes on to bigger things.

Headliners Wild Beasts are a different proposition – flanked either side of the stage by banks of keyboards, the band are an exciting mix of indie synth pop and art-rock cool.
Singer Hayden Thorpe is a confident front man, standing centre stage commanding the crowd. Unlike opener C.MacLeod, his voice is a high falsetto that fits well over the band’s music. He jokingly interacts with the crowd and engages them in a friendly, jovial manner that endears him to them.

It’s well after midnight when the band finishes but the night is not over yet as a late-night set by Hot Sauce DJs keeps the stragglers entertained well into the wee small hours.

Friday night and it’s down to The Tivoli theatre and a double bill of Geordie folk singer Richard Dawson and Falkirk’s finest miserablists, the mighty Arab Strap.

Calling him a folk singer doesn’t do Richard Dawson justice – he’s a much more bamboozling and entertaining performer than that. Singing either a cappella or accompanied by a guitar that constantly goes out of tune he is a revelation, winning over new fans in his 30-minute set.

Apparently inspired by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his vocal range is enormous – from low depths to soaring highs, all in the space of verses and choruses of the same songs. The music is traditional but also experimental and Avant Garde – accessible but difficult, impenetrable but melodic.

Between songs, he is funny, self-depreciating and, quite truthfully, a bit mad. Random tall tales include staying at the ‘doggy hotel’ and getting showered down in the yard, about how in the future babies will be made on spaceships by computer and of confusion as to the fate of Judas Iscariot (Dawson preferred the gorier version of this particular tale).

And, to top it off, he introduces his last song by saying that after it he’s then going to “get drunk…. And have a poo”. And that sums him up really – there’s no boundaries to him or his music.

Arab Strap at The Tivoli.

Not many performers have trod the boards of the Tivoli and opened with the couplet “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen / But you’ve no idea where that cock has been” – but, then, not many performers are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap.

A year after the bands reformation, vocalist Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton have finally made it up north, a full 11 years after their last performance here. Good things come to those who wait,
however, and Arab Strap are a good thing tonight
for sure.

Moffat, stage front and centre, is an amiable and friendly frontman and he’s in a buoyant, good humoured mood tonight with his between song tales. One highlight being a story of buying a parachute jump as present for a girlfriend who he subsequently found out was cheating on him so they finish. Next time he sees her she’s on crutches – after breaking her legs doing the parachute jump.

But it’s the songs that are Arab Strap’s greatest strength, as they should be. It’s a great feeling to hear classics such as ‘Girls of Summer’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ live once more. But it’s set closer ‘The Last Big Weekend’ that’s their stone cold classic and it’s still as thrilling and exciting nearly two decades after it was first released.

Late night at The Lemon Tree on Friday offers up another double bill of live acts as well as Radio Scotland DJ Galloway spinning tunes till late at night.

The opening act are Indigo Velvet, a young band from Edinburgh who first made a splash on the scene by playing T in The Park’s T Break Stage last year. Headlining are Manchester band Dutch Uncles.
It’s their first time in the Granite City and, according to singer Duncan Wallis, “It’s very grey”.

A lone voice pops up from the crowd to say “Aye, 50 shades of” to his bemusement.

It’s Wallis that’s the centre point of the band – his bendy legged dancing and high pitched, androgynous vocals proving to be quite a talking point.

Come Saturday and it’s time for the main event of the weekend at HMT as a stellar line up of guest vocalists perform Fleetwood Mac’s classic magnum opus in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Previous years have seen similar tributes to Kate Bush and Neil Young and proved to be a great success and this was also to be the case tonight.

Backed by musicians Start to End, the singers include luminaries such as Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Be Charlotte, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Martha Ffion and last year’s compere and band leader, Emma Pollock.

The first half of the night comprises of a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits set with cuts such as ‘Rhainnon’, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Tusk’ and more given an airing.

After the interval, it’s straight in ‘Rumours’ from beginning to end with a different singer taking each song before everyone takes to the stage for an encore of ‘Everywhere’.

It’s a fun experience that drew a mixed crowd – older HMT regulars that you wouldn’t necessarily see at the Lemon Tree gigs; gig regulars that are there to see the singer of their favourite band and, of course, Fleetwood Mac fans that are at the venue for the first time that might not be going to any other event.

I’m generalising slightly, but it’s good to see such an eclectic mix of punters and it’ll be interesting to see which singer or band gets the tribute next year.

Once that is over, it’s time to head to the Lemon Tree for the True North After Party, with headliner Pictish Trail and newcomers Neon Waltz.

Neon Waltz are tipped for big things – and it’s easy to see why.

The band are based in Thurso and John O’Groats and were subject of an article in The Guardian just days after their appearance here.

They have the looks – and the adoring female fans – that will take them places. Their sound is reminiscent of The Verve, Stone Roses, Oasis and Britpop – a pleasant, keyboard drenched indie sound with 90s influences and the polished sheen of current pop.

Behind the dry ice and red lighting singer Jordan Shearer could pass for a young Tim Burgess of The Charlatans – hunched over the mic in a similar fashion with that distinctive bowl cut.

This will probably be their last support slot in the Lemon Tree – they’ll be headlining it soon enough.

Headliner Pictish Trail is no stranger to this venue, having played it numerous times. And if you’ve never seen or heard him before then you’ve missed out.

His music is folky, electronic and rocky – sometimes all in the same song. Between songs, he could pass as a comedian, such is his wit – droll and downright funny. He has a toy plastic horse on stage and changes into what can only be described as a psychedelic orange dress.

Oh, and he has a large beard and is wearing sparkly makeup.

All of which would mark him as a novelty act but he is anything but. Tracks from albums ‘Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2’ and the recent ‘Future Echoes’ sound fantastic tonight – especially the wonderful and haunting ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ written about “The greatest film ever made” according to the man known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch.

The movie is question is ‘Fargo’ incidentally. There’s a good chance he’s completely correct as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see him live and tonight was no exception.

Despite this being the festival after party, there’s still one major gig to come on the Sunday night at The Tivoli theatre – and that’s a double bill of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and Frightened Rabbit front Scott Hutchison.

Hidden behind her piano with a glass of red wine and accompanied by percussionist Marcus Mackay, Joseph is first on stage.

Her songs are objects of beauty – her whispery voice plunging the depths of despair and depression whilst floating poetically over the haunting music.

She genuinely takes you places sonically and emotionally, with tracks that are, at turns, poignant and angry but somehow comforting and warm.

Soul baring lyrics are sung with a whisper, but are an inner scream to her fragility, to her openness and to her wounded soul.

It’s easy to compare her to Kate Bush or Tori Amos but such comparisons are superficial and lazy – based purely on her voice and her gender. But her music, and her words, transcend gender and classification – she may not sound like Nick Cave or Tom Waits vocally, but these are good comparisons. There’s a Gothic bleakness in there, beneath the melodies, and subjects so weighty that no 3 minute could do them justice.

The crowd are rapt – silently trapped in her songs, only taken back to reality by her whispered between song monologues.

Her next Aberdeen date is on December 28th at The Tunnels – don’t miss it.

Headliner Scott Hutchison has an equal depth to his words and emotions – something that can sometimes be hidden when backed by a loud rock band.

But tonight, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the emotions are there to see. His music, and musings, make a perfect accompaniment to Joseph. As well as similar themes and emotions the two share a genuine friendship and camaraderie as shown by their joking conversations during the gig as he talks to her in her seat on the balcony.

His acoustic renditions of Frightened Rabbit songs are equal to, or in some cases better than, the originals.

If there’s any complaint, however, is that his band have sold out both the Music Hall and Beach Ballroom in recent years but tickets remain for tonight. Sorry, but if you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you weren’t there then you genuinely missed something special.

And after Hutchison leaves the stage that’s it all over – the gig, the weekend and the wonderful True North Festival. It’s been an overwhelming and impressive few days and praise must go to the attendees, the artists and especially to the unsung organisers behind the scene who have made it a fantastic weekend of music and song.

Here’s to next year and to more of the same.

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Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the city returns in September in what promises to be an entertaining weekend. True North, now in its’ third year, has announced another strong line up over the weekend of 7 – 10 September. Kicking off proceedings are highly acclaimed act Public Service Broadcasting

With their new album released in July their date at His Majesty’s Theatre on Thursday 7th September is sure to be a sell-out.

The album, entitled Every Valley, depicts the history of industry in Wales, chronicling the rise and decline of the country’s coal industry.

Following previous concerts at The Lemon Tree, this is Public Service Broadcasting’s biggest date in Aberdeen and, as anyone that has seen them before will testify, they are sure to put on another memorable performance.

If one gig isn’t enough on Thursday night, then be sure to pop past the Lemon Tree afterwards for a late show by art-rockers Wild Beasts. The band are scheduled to release a new album – Boy King – in August so this will provide an early opportunity to see them perform tracks from it.

Friday night again offers two bills in two venues –  cult Scottish indie band Arab Strap at The Tivoli whilst The Lemon Tree plays host to art-pop quartet Dutch Uncles.

The recently reformed Arab Strap recently sold out two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom and at forthcoming events at the Kelvingrove Bandstand. The more intimate settings of The Tivoli will provide a perfect setting for the band’s unique storytelling and singular musical vision.

Manchester band Dutch Uncles take musical inspiration from Low-era Bowie, Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, East European Techno and, they claim, “some slightly less fashionable records belonging to their Dads”. With inspirations like that how could you afford to miss them?

Saturday night at The Lemon Tree also provides the opportunity to stay up late as Lost Map Records main-man The Pictish Trail, better known to friends and family as Johnny Lynch, brings his unique blend of folk, electro and humour to the stage there once again. Guest DJs will also be on hand to spin tunes into the wee small hours.

It’s His Majesty’s Theatre that provides the most intriguing performance of the weekend – a full band interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s legendry album Rumours. Start to End provide the musical backing and they will be joined onstage by musicians from Pronto Mama, Fat-Suit, Admiral Fallow and a few special guests still be announced. This should again prove a big draw and will appeal to fans of all ages.

Rounding up the weekend is a double bill of two Scotland’s most talented young performers as The Tivoli plays host to Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison and Kathryn Joseph, who was the winner of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year.

On top of the main performances there’ll also be a Fringe festival over the course the weekend at venues such as The Lemon Tree and intimate sessions at the Maritime Museum.

Tickets go on sale for all concerts on Friday 23rd November – http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/truenorth

Sep 232016
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

junior-simpsonTickets for a new comedy festival in the heart of the Granite City will be available to the public from Friday September 23.
Comedy fans can choose from over 65 shows from a fantastic line-up of comics during the 23 day Aberdeen Comedy Festival, which is taking place from October 14 to November 5.

The laugh filled extravaganza, which is being sponsored by local bar/pub McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, will feature more than 250 comedians performing at over 20 venues throughout the city centre.

Junior Simpson, Phil Nicol, Shazia Mirza, Allyson June Smith, Seymour Mace and local favourite Gus Lymburn have been announced as the latest comics to take part in the inaugural event, which will mark the first time Aberdeen has hosted a comedy festival on such a big scale.

Finding his humour in the everyday and humdrum with anecdotes of his world travels as a comedian, Junior Simpson has a boundless joy and exuberance that has audiences hooked with hilarity.

With his infectious energy and huge stage presence it is easy to see why Junior Simpson is a circuit favourite. Junior has performed in countless festivals and is looking forward to taking part in the first Aberdeen Comedy Festival.

The festival will kick off in style with a gala launch event at the historic Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen on October 14 as Australian funnyman Tom Stade sets the tone for the event.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“Both Aberdeen Inspired and Breakneck Comedy have been working incredibly hard on planning the Aberdeen Comedy Festival and we are delighted to have reached this point.

“At what continues to be a difficult time economically for the city, we are pleased to bringing some laughs to Aberdeen with the first comedy festival of its kind and it is great to get support from local businesses like our main sponsor McGintys. There has been a fantastic buzz since we launched the festival and we are sure there will be great interest in the wide variety of comedians and shows that will be on offer from Friday.

“The launch event at Tivoli is shaping up to a tremendous event and we are looking forward to kicking off the festival in such wonderful and historic surroundings. Our ambition with the festival was to source the best comedy for both residents and visitors to enjoy and we hope the public will take advantage of this opportunity to see a varied range of comedy in the city centre.”

Operations Director, Alan Aitken of McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, said:

“As a local business, we are delighted to support the first Aberdeen Comedy Festival. It is great to be involved in a new initiative for the North-east and hopefully this will encourage everyone to stay local in the city centre to enjoy what our great city has to offer. We look forward to welcoming all the comedy lovers and throughout the festival we will be serving the official festival ale ‘McGinty’s Barrel of Laughs’.”

Caroline Morgan, Theatre Manager at the Tivoli, said:

“The Tivoli is thrilled to be involved with such an exciting event and we are proud to be the Comedy Festival Gala Night venue. We know that audiences all over the city will have a great laugh and we hope it will bring new people to the theatre.”

The festival programme has been put together by Naz Hussain of Breakneck Comedy. Younger audiences will also get a chance to have some fun at a special show for kids, while anyone who has ever fancied their hand at comedy will have the chance with stand-up comedy workshops.

To buy tickets (from Friday September 23) and for more information on the festival visit http://www.aberdeencomedyfestival.com/

Tickets can also be bought in person at the Lemon Tree or HMT Box Offices.

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. Further information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Aug 112016
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Senior Account Executive, Citrus:Mix.

Juliette Burton Look At Me flower behind ear high res (c) Helen G Anderson 2014 (3)A north-east charity will lift the curtain on mental health issues at a historic theatre in the Granite City.
From a puppet show that tells the tale of a lonely fisherman to award-winning performer Juliette Burton (pictured) showcasing her perception changing show, Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA) will host a range of events later this year at the Grade A listed Tivoli Theatre.

MHA has worked in partnership with North East Arts Touring to arrange the events around World Mental Health Day in October and hopes to raise awareness of mental health and the variety of services it offers.

North East Arts Touring (NEAT) promotes high quality and professionally produced theatre, dance and film productions in rural communities across the north-east of Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus.

Astrid Whyte, chief executive of MHA, said:

“We want to start up conversations about mental health and play our part in making it a bit easier for people to discuss issues related to it. Plans have been gathering pace in recent months and everyone at MHA is delighted to see how things are coming together.

“Despite difficulties MHA is currently going through regarding the upcoming closure of our services in Aberdeenshire we are determined to make the most of this event. Our partnership with NEAT highlights the benefits of important collaboration between the health and arts sectors and has given us a platform to raise awareness and challenge negative perceptions of mental health in a creative way.

“Juliette is a fantastic performer who manages to get across difficult topics in an accessible way and we are sure her show Look At Me will be a great hit on the day. For us this, and the other performances and activities we have planned at the wonderful Tivoli Theatre, is a different way to mark World Mental Health Day and shine a spotlight on mental health.”

Juliette Burton is a multi award-winning actress, writer, performer, presenter and ex-BBC broadcast journalist. Her show Look At Me was an official sold out event at Edinburgh Fringe 2015 and has received five star reviews. An informed speaker and performer, Juliette is a mental health ambassador who uses her experiences to offer hope and help others.

Her show explores appearances and perceptions and whether changing how you look on the outside can change who you are inside. From dressing sexily to wearing the hijab, being male, obese, old and nude, her show has many faces and examines whether what people appear to be is who they truly are.

Juliette said:

“I’m so excited to be returning to Aberdeen and performing at the Tivoli Theatre in October to mark World Mental Health Day. Aberdeen is one of my favourite cities and I can’t wait to meet all the people who come to the show – so we can break down some barriers and use laughter to be our light in the darkness.

“I’m so honoured to be a part of such a special series of events and I hope together we can unite people so we all leave feeling enlightened, inspired, happier and more connected! Bring on October!”

Juliette Burton Look At Me flower with blue background (c) Helena G Anderson 2014 (3)featThe Yugen Puppet Company will also perform on the day, telling the comic tale of a lonely fisherman who falls in love with a seal, and how in matters of love things don’t always go according to plan.

Based on the myths and legends of the Scottish Selkie and using hand-crafted puppets and striking shadow silhouettes, with music from the past, the company put their own twist on the usually tragic Scottish fairy tale.

MHA will be hosting activities, which include a music workshop with charity Musicrange, at the Tivoli theatre from 11am to 4pm on October 15, and will reopen the doors from 6pm for the Look At Me show.

MHA was founded in 1950 and the organisation was among the first to provide community care with its first residential project, a group home for discharged psychiatric patients, opened more than 35 years ago. MHA has also been providing day services continuously for over 60 years.

Further information is available online at www.mha.uk.net

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May 312012
 

Voice’s Alex Mitchell takes readers on a tour of Aberdeen offering a snapshot in time with regard to the appearance, condition and history of some of the city’s streets, features and buildings.

Saturday 19th May 2012:
The first sunny day for ages, so  I left the car at Union Square and went for a wander.  The handsome Archibald Simpson building (former Employment Exchange) at the north-east corner of the Market Street & Virginia Street crossroads has been stone-cleaned to useful effect.   Similarly the Tivoli on Guild Street has benefited from its restoration.

More stone-cleaning is being undertaken on the Carmelite Hotel on Trinity Street. The rectangular enclosures along Carmelite Street are now filling up with shrubs.  

The trees planted along both sides of Rennie’s Wynd are taking hold now and doing their bit to enhance this otherwise fairly grim length of streetscape alongside the Trinity Centre car park.

Into the Green.

The shop premises formerly occupied by Coco Violet, just east of the Back Wynd stairs, remain untenanted.

Similarly the former butcher’s shop next to Correction Wynd and the large former sportswear shop on the south side.

Café 52 seems busy, but otherwise few people to be seen at 2.30 pm on a sunny Saturday.

The south side of the Green is already in deep shade. The Green and the surrounding area are characterised by very tall buildings and narrow streets and wynds, the unfortunate effect of which is to shut out the sunlight in the afternoons, even in the summer months.

Along Hadden Street. The trees planted in the rectangular enclosures alongside the Aberdeen Market are now protected by elegant & substantial black wrought-iron tree-guards, which create a welcome impression of regularity and symmetry.

Similarly the Rox Hotel up ahead on Market Street, its 1845 Archibald Simpson premises and frontage elegantly restored.

But the Market Arms pub at the corner of Hadden Street & Stirling Street is looking very shabby these days.

Down Market Street and along Shiprow Lane.

On Shiprow itself, the Ibis Hotel and the huge office development beyond, apparently still unoccupied.   The lights are on, but nobody is at home.

Across Union Street and along Broad Street.   The restoration and stone-cleaning of Marischal College really show up to good effect on a sunny day and the statue of Robert Bruce is also highly effective.

The restored Marischal College has become the ‘iconic’ backdrop of choice for any TV news item about Aberdeen and it does our town credit.

Along Gallowgate.   The BrewDog premises in the former Marischal Bar have become something of an institution, an unusual case of a pub actually being improved by a change of ownership.

Down Littlejohn Street, across King Street and along East North Street to the Castlehill roundabout.

We lost the Timmer Market car park some time ago, to the huge disadvantage of businesses & residents in the Castlegate, and now the East North Street car park is closed down and being redeveloped as part of the new Health & Care Village on Frederick Street.

Nobody much in the Castlegate – a clutch of alkies are disporting themselves between the Sally-Ann and the Portals Bar, not doing anything particularly exceptionable, but hardly conducive to the ambiance of this historic locale or its tourist-related potential.

Down Marischal Street – a spectacularly dilapidated shoppie just up from the bridge over Virginia Street, still with its window display from about 30 years ago.   Back to Guild Street, where the forecourt of the Union Square complex seems to have become the favoured place for kids to hang out and drop litter.

Holburn Junction – the premises of the former Beluga café/bar are now occupied by a Sainsbury’s Local, directly across this end of Union Street from a Tesco Metro in the former Bank of Scotland premises.

It seems that conversion of pubs into supermarkets does not require planning permission for change-of-use, and there are a lot of redundant pubs these days.

These new small supermarkets are the one positive development in High Street shopping locales these days, being convenient of access and encouraging people to walk to their local shops and on a regular basis instead of driving to an edge-of-town superstore once a week or so.

Out the Lang Stracht to Dobbie’s Garden Centre on the western outskirts of the city.   The Garden Centre incorporates a substantial retail operation including books & magazines, leisure/outerwear – frankly, most of the togs a chap needs – plus a cafė/restaurant, delicatessen, butcher, baker etc.

Garden centres have a fairly banal image, but one can see the attractions of free & accessible parking, a clean, well-maintained environment, decently-behaved customers, clean toilets – it is easy to see the appeal compared with going into town.   And it’s somewhere to go in the car, and not too far away.

The danger is that Dobbie’s  may be the thin end of a wedge deployed to justify further retail development, followed as surely as night follows day by proposals for residential development and inexorable urban sprawl whilst retail activity continues to drain out of the city centre.

Saturday 26th May 2012: 
Brilliantly sunny weather all this week.
Left the motor in the Denburn car park and walked down past His Majesty’s Theatre, under the Denburn Viaduct and into Union Terrace Gardens – full of people, many with small children – this is one of the very few down-town locations where kids can be allowed to run about without fear of traffic.
And not an alkie or smackheid in sight.

The 78 large mature trees are looking wonderful just now.   Every aspect pleases, other than that of the Triple Kirks, its crumbling tower & spire now further enhanced by unpainted wooden boarding to shut out the peregrine falcons which were nesting there until recently.

The peregrines are a top predator, indicative of a whole food chain of wildlife species below them.

Belmont Street is full of people, checking out the monthly Country Market.   On the brow of Schoolhill, looking towards Marischal College, where the Mitchell Tower is now conspicuously dirty-grey and unrestored.

This view of the College has been obstructed these last 40-odd years by the jumble of concrete rubbish at the Upperkirkgate end of the St Nicholas House complex – the octagonal structure, the long-redundant Post Office and the untenanted shops.   Into St Nicholas Kirkyard via Back Wynd.   Clumps of bluebells between the gravestones.   Lots of people enjoying the tranquillity.

The anti-social element seems to have moved to the Castlegate these days.

To the Oxfam Bookshop, the last second-hand bookshop remaining in Aberdeen, where I obtained Misha Glenny’s magisterial history of the Balkans @ £3.99.

Bookshops and record shops used to be a principal attraction of town centres and High Streets, a reason for going into town, and now they’re almost all gone.  What, if anything, will replace them?

Back over Union Bridge and down through the Gardens; again, every aspect pleases – the granite balustrading, originally matching that on both sides of Union Bridge, the Tuscan-style palazzi along Union Terrace, the statues of Edward VII, a.k.a. Edward the Caresser, Rabbie Burns, Prince Albert and William Wallace, and the wonderful and truly iconic vista of His Majesty’s Theatre up there on the Viaduct.

Contributed by Alex Mitchell.