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Boo!  Boo!  Boo! to Horsecross.   

rotten tomatoes for Horsecross

Rotten Tomatoes for Horsecross

Horsecross which runs Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre has just introduced booking fees after being booking fee free since it opened – apart from touring shows which imposed their own booking fees.

Booking fees are a rip-off tax on the arts, and Horsecross is charging 50p a ticket.    So I have just bought 12 tickets in one transaction for several events which comes to around £180, and I now have to pay an extra £6 “arts tax”.    

It does not cost £6 to process £180.

The lunacy is that if I buy 12 tickets for the same event the booking fee is waived on tickets 11 and 12.    That’s real Alice in Wonderland logic for you, as is the waiving of the booking fee if you turn up in person and pay in cash.

If I go into a supermarket, I don’t have to pay extra for the shop to process my transaction.    Horsecross should be no different.   There are plenty of arts organisations that don’t charge booking fees, and Horsecross should be one of them.

Consider this post a generous dose of virtual rotten tomatoes.

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What a total nightmare.    The proposed Glasgow Airport Rail Link GARL is a casualty of the Scottish Govermnent’s budget, and will now apparently not be happening.

Glasgow Council are furious, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Games people will also be very unhappy – although they probably can’t say too much as they are due to receive funding from the Government to put the games on.      But GARL was a carrot used in the bid for the Games.

Why can’t Scotland manage to link its airports (Prestwick excepted) with the major cities?      Other countries seem to be able to do this.

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Heading to Edinburgh?    Lots to see and do, and shows are booking well by all accounts.   Hope the rain stays off.

But Edinburgh is a city under seige from miles and miles of Heras fencing, seas of  yellow diversion signs, diggers, men in high-vis jackets and general mess as the work for the Trams is ongoing.   

Driving between the North and South of Edinburgh is all but impossible – even for locals, as a route open one day may be suddenly closed the next.     Busses are coralled into George Street.   Clearly this is Edinburgh Council’s revenge against the electorate of Edinburgh who voted against their proposed congestion charge.    Latest encouraging news is that the Council are taking the Tram contractors to court for not fulfilling their contract.

Also, key attractions like the Royal Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Commonwealth Pool and the City Arts Centre are all closed at the same time for months for major refurbishment.    Who planned that?

 Anyway, this is Princes Street.     Shocking.     Good luck trying to walk along it, and (even worse), cross it.    And in case you thought that you could drive North/South at Haymarket, you can’t.    It looks just like Princes Street.

Princes Street Tram Mess

Princes Street Tram Mess

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homecoming_2009Homecoming 2009 is an initiative to encourage people with Scottish connections living abroad to visit the old country in 2009.   It is to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth, and there are 200 events running from Burns Night through to St Andrews Day.   It is costing the taxpayer dearly, yet we are hopeful of a return – difficult in a year of worldwide economic turmoil.

So on Friday, the promotional video was unveiled.      Various Scottish celebs sing a line of Dougie McLean’s song Caledonia in front of iconic scenery.     The idea is imagination on auto-pilot.   I have to say that it is appalling.   Most of the performers look very uncomfortable, and Sean Connery only manages to speak his line.    It is badly shot with poor sound.

Surely we can do better than this.   We badly need to.    There is a lot at stake.

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Use of English

There has been quite a debate recently about use of English, and about spelling in particular.    I know that communication is much more dynamic than it once was, and different styles are called for in texts, e-mails ….. and blogs!

But for public consumption, grammar and spelling matter.    A serious message written badly with inaccurate spelling will not only reflect poorly on the sender, but will actually devalue the message itself.

I have just had to return two draft press releases written by professionals in the tourism marketing and promotion world.    They are a small and experienced team, but their grasp of how to write is, quite frankly, terrible.

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A short break in the rain today let us fill in holes in the road with tar planings.   When harvest finally starts, smooth farm roads make things a lot easier on equipment and result in faster journeys to and from the grain drier.

I spied two people exploring my crop of oats, and one was taking photos.    The parked car was Dutch, so these were clearly visitors, now walking towards me.    The lady had some oats in her hand.    “We’ve done a bad thing” she said, waving the bunch of oats about.    I told her not to worry, and explained that the oats are destined for Porridge – if it ever stops raining that is.     They thought that it was barley, and were confused about whisky, even although they had been to the Laphroaig distillary in Islay.

So, I took them into the next field, and gave them some barley home with them too.    And as they were asking, I explained about malting, distilling and the difference between Single Malt and Blended whisky.

So, a ‘Bad Thing’ became a ‘Good Thing’, and the visitors went off on their way to St Andrews and are going home on the Newcastle boat tonight.    With their oats and barley from Scotland.

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Superfast Ferry

Sad news today that the Superfast Ferry between Rosyth and Zebrugge is to be axed from 13th September.     It seems that the Euro exchange rate and high cost of oil is making this unecomnomic to run.

This route is very valuable for bringing visitors directly to Scotland from Europe, and with their cars.    But, even although there are plenty of them, tourists alone are not enough to pay the bills, and from the very beginning this route has always needed freight to make it viable.

I remember the official launch in 2002 when Chancellor and local MP, Gordon Brown accompanied by then First Minister Henry McLeish toured the boat and made speeches on board.

We used to have a boat every day, but now it is every other day.   It is possible that another operator might be found to run this route – let’s hope so.     It would be a shame to lose it after so much hard work was put into getting it set up in the first place.

Indeed, there has been recent talk of developing more ferry routes using Rosyth, including a route to Norway.

Rosyth Ferry

Rosyth Ferry

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Bad Communication

The following really happened:

Bluedog:  Hi, I’m Bluedog and I am wondering if you could please let me have your Chief Exec’s e-mail so that my organisation can send him a newsletter.

Public Sector Organisation (PSO) with large responsibilities in 2009 in Scotland:  Can we do this by post?

BD:  Well, we like to communicate by e-mail when we can and when it is appropriate.

PSO:  I am sorry, but we don’t give out e-mails.

BD: Well, our organisation is over 30 years old, and in the same industry as your PSO.   We communicate directly with the heads of many organisations, as well as directly with the Government.    (BD gave examples).      I can’t actually believe that you are blocking me from communicating directly with your Chief Executive.   We are in the same industry and should be communicating.

PSO:  You are taking a very agressive stance.    I am sorry, but we still don’t give out e-mails.    I could put you in touch with the Chief’s PA, and if he is interested, he will look at your newsletter.

Bluedog:   No, I would like this to be a personal communication.    Let’s just leave it for now.

PSO:  OK.

Oh my goodness.    If this particular organisation decides to grow up and start communicating with the rest of the world  in a normal way, we might just have some events organised for the extra visitors Scotland is expecting in 2009 to attend.      With this sort of attitude, it is really not looking good.

Digging up weeds is a very theraputic way of cooling down.

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New licensing regulations have been introduced into Scotland, and they are going down like a lead balloon, particularly in the tourism sector.     The smallest businesses are being hit inappropriately hard by a whole raft of stupid and pointless regulations.

Everywhere that sells alcohol now comes under the new licensing scheme.   The scheme is extremely expensive to comply with, and requires architects’ plans of buildings where alcohol is to be sold.     It has produced some astonishing effects, and the regulations are being interpreted differently depending on who your local Council is.

I was supplying the very occasional complimentary bottle of locally produced sparkling wine for our guests celebrating a special occasion perhaps, or coming to stay out of the main tourism season.     This free bottle of wine now turns out to be a sale of alcohol.    If I am to continue, I will have to get a Personal Licence, attend a training course, and possibly obtain a Premises Licence as well.    Cost was quoted as £577 (one off payment) plus £176 every year.    Not to mention the cost of getting plans drawn up to an acceptable specification.     It is an outrageous imposition by government for businesses  who sell very little alcohol.    And exactly how much training is involved to tell me how to put a bottle of wine in a fridge?

And presumably a plan would have to show the location of the property, the location of the kitchen, and the location of the fridge in the kitchen.    In case the alcohol police look in the washing machine perhaps?    Just how dim are the inspectors?    Perhaps they need a plan of the inside of the fridge to keep them right.

So, no more free wine.    I simply cannot take the risk that my guests will walk half a mile into our local village and hang about causing bother and getting ASBOs left, right and centre after a couple of glasses of fizz.    They will get local honey instead, which is probably OK until the food police turn up.

The new licensing regulations are a nonsense, and a disgraceful performance from a nationalist-led government which was supposed to be lighter on business regulation than the last lot in charge.

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Carol Hogel is an American who has been living in Scotland for the past 25 years.    She has been a major sponsor of the arts in Scotland and the UK – to the tune of £20 million through the Dunard Fund which she set up.

She has contributed to the RSNO, most UK opera companies, the National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and lots more.    It is a big list, and adds up to a lot of money.

For Scotland, through her generosity, she has allowed us to be genuinely ambitious with artistic projects, like the building of the Playfair project at the National Gallery, like bringing Peter Stein’s Parsifal to Edinburgh, and so much more.      She helped rescue the Edinburgh International Festival from a financial black hole.   In short, she has made a major contribution to the UK arts, particularly in Scotland.

But now, faced with what she sees as a tax for bringing her wealth to the UK – the Brown/Darling  non dom tax of £30,000 pa, she has announced that she is moving to California, where philanthropists giving to the arts are appreciated.

Shamingly, it was not the tax itself which tipped the balance, but a chippy article written by Robert McNeil in The Scotsman which concluded by saying “The rich are leaving, and good ruddy riddance to them”.   Hogel wrote a letter back accusing McNeil of “taking ethnic cleansing to a whole new level” and calling him “destructive, spiteful and philistine”.    

A civilised country is measured in part by its artistic and cultural status and aspirations.     A vibrant arts sector contributes to the high quality of life we enjoy in Scotland.    It encourages others to visit, and it provides many jobs.

So, this is to say thank you so much to Carol Hogel for her generous contributions.      I am so sad it had to end like this.     NcNeil and The Scotsman should be hanging their heads in shame.

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