Opinion: Mum's the Word - a car park can be a festival paradise

‘Don't it always seem to go/ That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone/ They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot’, sang Joni Mitchell in Big Yellow Taxi.

Castle Terrace Car Park makes a great outdoor venue at this year's Edinburgh Festival.
Castle Terrace Car Park makes a great outdoor venue at this year's Edinburgh Festival.

Joni has a point since building Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace Car Park meant destroying 19th-century pleasure gardens, not great, but it’s here now and has been since 1964 when it was the country’s first modern multi-storey car park.

It’s now listed, which as a fan of the city’s brutalist architecture I applaud.

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I know, carbuncle, eyesore, splutter, but I’m a 60s/70s child and there’s plenty of beautiful symmetrical sandstone in terraces and crescents elsewhere in town.

If it was up to me the Kinetic sculpture planted in the roundabout in Picardy Place would go back up, the 80ft neon steel tower I gazed at, gobstopper-eyed, as a country child visiting the capital, the only neon I was accustomed to being down the chippy.

I also love Leith’s Banana flats, think Commie Pool a thing of beauty, regard Terence Conran’s Ocean Terminal as a palace (not so much of commerce maybe lately – my most recent visit saw me attempting to roller disco) and Miralles’ playful parliament building with its paddling ponds for the populus and their pooches makes me smile.

Coming up to date, for me the new St James Quarter’s typewriter ribbon topping adds a fitting punctuation mark to the skyline of a city that gave the world more than its fair share of fonts, as in publishing.

Niche, I know, but a worthy, wordy contribution, and anyone who thinks it’s akin to a turd emoji maybe spends too much time on screen.

Celebrating Okoe, a singing, dancing, drumming, brass blend of Afrobeat and jazz sounds at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

So, Castle Terrace Car Park may be a parking lot, but with its castle rock backdrop and free air conditioning it makes a brilliant outdoor venue as the festival sputters back into life.

The audience watching Celebrating Okoe by the 13-piece African Groove Machine certainly appreciated it, as the performers gave it their all, mixing Ghanaian rhythms, Scottish jazz, Afrobeat and brass in an explosion of music and dance.

They even got us up dancing – an Embra audience, traditionally inclined to keep bums superglued to seats – ‘audience participation, eh no, that’s for the tourists ken’ – there they were, waving their arms and jumping about like no-one was watching.

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Now we know what we’ve got, with the festival, a parking lot can be a little bit of paradise too.

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