Home music venue host to challenge council gig ban

A PHOTOGRAPHER who was banned from holding underground concerts at his home is to challenge the decision.

Douglas Robertson, 59, who uses his Abbeyhill home to showcase acts on a makeshift stage, was banned last year after a series of noise complaints from neighbours.

Council officials said the concerts were at odds with the quiet family surroundings and vowed to “protect residential properties”.

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But Mr Robertson said he has received a “huge” amount of support for reinstating The Soundhouse, adding that more than 100 signatures of support from all over the world had been sent to city councillors.

Mr Robertson, who argued there were no small venues left in the city for musicians, said: “The support I’ve had has been unbelievable. Most of my neighbours come to the gigs and really enjoy them.

“With this application, I want to compromise in some way, to make sure people don’t stand outside the flat having a cigarette and to agree to have fewer gigs which finish at 11pm.

“I don’t know exactly what I would have to do because the council haven’t told me what’s acceptable.

“I’m not sure if I can sing in the shower without it being described as a gig – it’s completely ambiguous.”

Based in a ground-floor converted shop in Royal Park Terrace, his gigs attracted up to 50 revellers and operated a strict 11pm closing policy.

While organisers didn’t charge for entry, revellers were asked for a suggested £10 donation fee, with all proceeds going directly to the artists.

The bid to resurrect The Soundhouse has received the backing of singer-songwriter Dean Owens, Seattle musician Eli West and Aidan O’Rourke, a Trad Music Awards composer of the year.

Mr Robertson, who has begun hosting concerts again since submitting the application, said: “It did get a bit much when we were having gigs six times a week, so we’re quite happy to cut back a bit.

“But there has never been a policeman at the door in all the time we have been holding these gigs because there has never been a complaint about noise or any trouble.”

Mr Robertson has applied to the city council’s planners for a Certificate of Lawful Use, which would remove the threat of enforcement action.

Officials issued the ban following a probe into the use of the property, with the final gig taking place on Hogmanay.

One neighbour who did not want to be named said the gigs generated a “lot of noise” and made it difficult for residents to find parking spaces.

But jazz-folk musician Sophie Bancroft, from Pathhead in Midlothian, said: “I am in complete support of The Soundhouse. As a musician, the number of smaller intimate venues have vanished in the past few years.

“Douglas gets people all over the world – it’s a place for people to play in Edinburgh.”

Sound of underground

THE Soundhouse has played host to acclaimed folk performers including:

Michael Mara: The Dundee-born singer-songwriter, who died last year, supported the likes of Van Morrison, The Proclaimers, Barbara Dickson and Deacon Blue during his career.

Michelle Shocked: The American performer, from Texas, wrote an original song for the film Dead Man Walking, which starred Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

Rob Morsberger: Former Edinburgh University student Rob has worked with the likes of Patti Smith and Crash Test Dummies. Born in Ohio, he lives with his family near New York.

Dean Owens: Edinburgh-based Dean Owens is one of Scotland’s most acclaimed and established singer-songwriters and a favourite of Irvine Welsh. Previously the frontman of Americana act The Felsons, now recording and touring as a solo artist.