Fears for future of Edinburgh arts venue

Jesus H. Foxx at The Bowery
Jesus H. Foxx performing at The Bowery (photo by Markus Thorson @ flickr)

Normally, birthdays are a time for celebration. The first birthday of The Bowery this weekend has got people talking for different reasons, with widespread fear over the venue’s future.

The Bowery is a multi-purpose arts venue, in the basement of the Roxy Art House in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

It was set up by Edinburgh University graduate Ruth Moir, and New Yorker Jane Flett last November, as a hub for creatives in the city.

However, recent developments have led to concerns over the future of The Bowery, and the community which has grown around it.

The building is owned by Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS), the arm’s-length body set up by the University to foster community regeneration in Edinburgh.

EUS recently advertised for a General Manager for the Roxy Art House, who would take control of the entire building and its operations.

Roxy Art House
The Roxy Art House, home of The Bowery (photo from roxyarthouse.org)

This led those in Edinburgh’s arts scene to speculate over The Bowery’s future, should EUS decide to revamp the Roxy’s facilities.

Matthew Young, head of Edinburgh-based record label Song, By Toad, voiced his concerns on the label’s blog.

“What’ll end up happening is that the bands go back to their dive bars, the poets back to their cafes, the artists back to their galleries and that big mixture of diverse arts, the presence of every single fragment of which was a massive encouragement to everyone else, will simply break up again”, he said.

Dan Gorman, project manager for EUS, and one of the current managers of the Roxy Art House, has attempted to calm fears, saying that “EUS are not kicking The Bowery out of the building”.

He added: “EUS completely support and respect the Bowery and what it has done and hopefully will continue to do.

“We’ve supported it so much we’ve essentially subsidised its existence over the past year as we also want to support this community and grassroots arts.”

Jane Flett, co-founder of The Bowery, also attempted to reassure artists and fans of the venue.

Speaking on the venue’s forum, she said: “There are changes afoot in the building because this is what is needed to keep it alive and sustainable as an independent arts space, but hopefully The Bowery will remain involved.”

The Bowery’s 1st Birthday takes place on Saturday 7th November from 5pm.