As it’s just become the fifth biggest film ever at British cinema box offices, you may already know that the climax of Skyfall, the deliriously hyped 23rd James Bond movie, takes place in Scotland.
To avoid spoilers I won’t reveal exactly what happens when 007 visits the Highlands – though one thing’s for sure, the scriptwriter is certainly not up on the history of the Scottish Reformation (a surprisingly key plot point).
If you’ve seen any of the previous 22 Bond films, though, you can probably guess that it doesn’t end with him and Javier Bardem’s bad guy sitting down to discuss their differences amicably, before sorting everything out and sharing a few memories of past escapades over a glass of single malt (“and then he said, ‘No, I expect you to die!’ Haw haw, that was a good one!”).
Never one to overlook a tie-in marketing opportunity, Visit Scotland has produced a new page on its website, inviting tourists who are inspired by the stunning scenery of Sam Mendes’ film to “try some Bond-inspired activities on your visit to Scotland”. Their suggestions include a Highland wildlife safari, a nice boat trip around the West Coast or going skiing. Lovely ideas for a holiday, sure, but I can’t help feeling they’re missing a trick here.
It all sounds a bit tame for Britain’s most notorious thrill-seeker, a character who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “holiday”. Even when recuperating from a near-death injury in a paradise resort in Skyfall, his idea of relaxation is a potentially fatal drinking game. For James Bond, no downhill ski run is complete without several pursuers shooting at him and a chance to jump off a cliff with a patriotic parachute; no boat trip has a point unless it’s a speedboat which turns into a submarine and then a helicopter; and any “romantic getaway” will end with the beautiful lady being killed immediately afterwards, mourned only by a pithy one-liner.
So perhaps Visit Scotland should throw health and safety considerations aside – after all, that’s the kind of petty bureaucracy Bond would despise – and arrange for tourists to be really shaken and not just stirred, by setting up a Skyfall re-enactment site near Glencoe, complete with exploding buildings, strafing helicopters, swims in frozen lochs and dramatic shoot-outs in a glen. All right, the shooting might have to be paintball, the buildings polystyrene and the winter swimmers might need ambulances afterwards. But at least if they’re looking for a larger-than-life, billionaire autocrat with a peculiar hairstyle to replace Javier Bardem, Donald Trump’s already on hand.
‘If Avalanche is to survive, it may need to follow Rough Trade’s model more closely
As one of our leading indie record shops faces closure, Paul Harkins suggests a plan of action.
It was sad but not surprising to learn that Avalanche Records in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket may be forced to close in January. Only a few years ago, there were branches in West Nicholson Street, Lady Lawson Street, and Cockburn Street and it had also gone west to Glasgow and opened a shop there. .
If business wasn’t booming, it was at least healthy. Its nearest competitor for the student music market, Fopp, went bust in 2007 and has soldiered on as a shadow of its former shelves. That student market is now gone, lost to digital downloads, though a loyal CD and vinyl audience still exists.
Avalanche’s possible demise may have more to do with its poor customer service and unsatisfactory retail experience. At a time when Rough Trade’s new London store in Brick Lane is booming – they predict a 20 per cent increase in physical sales if their plan to open stores across the UK goes ahead – Avalanche tried to do something similar with its move to a shop with café in the Grassmarket. Sadly, the premises felt more like an empty warehouse than somewhere you’d want to hang out.
“Music retail is 1 per cent purchase, 99 per cent an experience,” Rough Trade’s co-owner Stephen Godfroy told Music Week recently. And yet, poor customer service in some branches of Avalanche has been legendary over the years. This is nothing new in record shops (see Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and, in the film version, Jack Black’s humiliation of his unhip customers) but some members of staff showed so much contempt for customers that only masochists chose to return and others found online shopping much friendlier. A few celebrity fans like Ian Rankin and Sean Hughes are unlikely to make you enough money to stay in business.
If Avalanche is to survive and, like another longstanding Edinburgh institution (Hearts FC) currently under threat, I hope it does, they may need to speak to Rough Trade or follow its model more closely. Alternatively, you only need to take a short walk to the top of the Mound (Coda) and then down to Cockburn Street (Underground Solushn) to see how music retailers are successfully catering to niche markets (folk; dance) in tough times. Watch out, though, there may still be a real-life John Cusack or Jack Black lurking behind the counter.
l Paul Harkins is a lecturer in the music department at Edinburgh Napier University.