A PHOTOGRAPHER embroiled in a long-running battle with council chiefs over the staging of underground concerts in his home has been shortlisted for a major music industry award.
Sixty-year-old Douglas Robertson’s “house concerts”, which he stages in his home and studio overlooking Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, have been nominated for the Scots Trad Music Awards.
His home will competing for the “venue of the year” honour along with Shetland’s new multi-million pound live music venue, the National Piping Centre in Glasgow and an arts centre in Dumfriesshire.
Previous winners of the best venue category at the awards, which are being broadcast live on BBC Alba next month, include the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow and Perth Concert Hall.
The nomination for “Douglas Robertson’s House” has come almost a year after he launched a campaign against his treatment by the council, who claimed he was running an unauthorised and unlicensed venue.
Robertson has attracted a host of major acts, including Michelle Shocked and the late Michael Marra, to the former shop he converted in the Abbeyhill area of Edinburgh since he started running house concerts there around a decade ago.
But he was told to stop the living room concerts more than a year ago by the city council after a complaint from one of his neighbours on Royal Park Terrace.
However despite admitting that up to 80 people were attending the gigs, Mr Robertson - whose makeshift venue has been hailed as the best in the city by many musicians - has continued to stage up to eight concerts a month, insisting he is doing nothing wrong by the letter of the law.
Robertson, who says audiences only pay a suggested “donation” of around £10 to attend gigs, challenged an enforcement notice from the council, and won his case earlier in the summer.
However he is now facing another battle after the council decided to contest the findings from the government-appointed reporter, claiming they were “too vague.” It is thought the council could pursue the case all the way to the Court of Session.
Mr Robertson said he had made a number of changes to the way his house concerts were organised, including setting a limit of just eight concerts a month, reducing the overall capacity, from 80 to 60, and scrapping his email subscription list.
He told The Scotsman: “I’ve never actually stopped the concerts over the last year or so, they are still happening, although it is now very much a word of mouth thing.
“None of the shows are publicly advertised and we decided to stop emailing out details of the house concerts. I know almost all of the people who come to shows personally.
“The council are refusing to give up, though. The government found in my favour in the summer, but now the council is challenging its ruling. You have to wonder how much public money is being spent pursuing this.
“It’s not just musicians who tell us we are the best venue, a lot of our audience tell us that as well. We get people coming to the shows who would never be prepared to stand for a whole gig on a sticky floor.”
Robertson ‘not involved in nomination’
Mr Robertson denied he had personally solicited any nominations for the Scots Trad Music Awards, which are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year.
Event organiser Simon Thoumire said it was open to anyone to nominate potential candidates in any category.
Each of the shortlists are drawn from hundreds of public nominations by a panel of music industry experts, who also help choose the winners, along with the results of an online vote held over the next few weeks.
Mr Thoumire said: “Everybody in the industry talks about Douglas Robertson’s house and the problems he’s had with the council. I don’t know the full background to it, but I don’t see any issues with someone putting on music in their own home, as long as their neighbours are happy with it.”
A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “We have lodged an appeal seeking clarification of the Scottish Government’s decision.”
Meanwhile the nomination for the Mareel arts centre in Shetland has come after much-publicised financial troubles and an 18-month delay in opening its doors.
The £13.5 million live music and cinema complex, a striking new building in the traditional harbour area of Lerwick, received a £1.1 million injection from Shetland Islands Council earlier in the year to help meet the costs of its delayed opening.
Other contenders in the awards, which are being staged in Aberdeen for the first time next month, including Blazin’ Fiddles, Manran, the Nuala Kennedy Band and the Paul McKenna Band, who will be competing for the coveted group of the year title.
Nominees for best live act are Braebach, Lau, The Outside Track, and Anna Massie and Mairearad Green.
Two of Scotland’s smallest music festivals, the one held in the village of Moniaive, in Dumfriesshire, and the one held on the Isle of Jura, will compete with one of the fastest growing, on Tiree, which was named best small festival at the Scottish Event Awards last month.
Donald Shaw, the artistic director of Scotland’s biggest traditional festival, Celtic Connections, is one of the four contenders for composer of the year.
Mr Thoumire added: “The traditional music scene in Scotland is so vibrant with an unrivalled array of festivals, events, bands and singers. We can’t wait to host the ceremony in Aberdeen this year.”
Tickets for the Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony on 7 December are on sale now from www.aberdeenperformingarts.com with public voting now open at www.scotstradmusicawards.com
NOMINATIONS IN FULL
Album of the year
• Wide Open (Ross Ainslie)
• Room Enough For All (Battlefield Band)
• Cruinn (Cruinn)
• An Tra (Marie Fielding).
Club of the year
• Banchory Accordion & Fiddle Club
• Folkclub (Glasgow)
• Ness Melodian Band (Isle of Lewis)
• Milngavie Folk Club
Community project of the Year
• Gadie Music (Aberdeenshire)
• Atomic Doric (Banchory)
• Gizzen Briggs (Tain Royal Academy)
• Friends of Wighton (Dundee)
Composer of the year
• Donald Shaw
• Duncan Lyall
• Adam Sutherland
• Ailie Robertson
Event of the year
• Tiree Music Festival
• Jura Music Festival
• Moniaive Folk Festival
• Carrying Stream Festival (Edinburgh).
Gaelic singer of the year
• Rachel Walker
• Alasdair Whyte
• Sineag MacIntyre
• Linda MacLeod
Trad music in the media award
• Travelling Folk (BBC Radio Scotland)
• Horo Gheallaidh (BBC Alba)
• Trad with Pad (Celtic Music Radio)
• Transatlantic sessions (BBC4)
Instrumentalist of the year
• Chris Stout
• James Duncan Mackenzie
• Patsy Reid
• Angus Lyon
Live act of the year
• The Outside Track
• Anna Massie and Mairearad Green
Scots singer of the year
• George Donaldson
• Fiona Hunter
• Mick West
• Siobhan Miller
Dance band of the year
• Trail West
• Craig Paton Band
• Graeme Mitchell Band
• Nicky McMichan Band
Scottish folk band of the year
• Nuala Kennedy band
• Blazin’ Fiddles
• Paul McKenna Band
Pipe band of the year
• Newtongrange Pipe Band
• Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band,
• Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band
• Ullapool and District Junior Pipe Band
Up-and-coming artist of the year
• Adam Holmes and The Embers
• Robert Robertson
• Scott Wood Trio
• Tina Jordan Rees
Music tutor of the year
• Corrina Hewat (Borders)
• Margaret Scollay (Shetland)
• Bob Massie (Highlands)
• Alpha Munro (Highlands)
Venue of the year
• Mareel (Shetland)
• Douglas Robertson’s House (Edinburgh)
• A’ the Airts (Sanquhar)
• National Piping Centre (Glasgow)