Ryan Drever of Leith Depot: 'This kind of place should be allowed to flourish in a city like Edinburgh'
credit: Andrew O'Brien Photography
Leith Depot's Love Live Music Week aims to raise awareness about the plight facing independent venues
As the recent furore with Edinburgh's Summerhall shows, the quest to make space in which live music venues can still operate within developing city centres is ongoing, and doesn't look like easing up any time soon. Yet over in Leith, the arguments around the block at the foot of Leith Walk containing Leith Depot are about so much more than just one excellent gig space. The decision to demolish in favour of a new, mixed-use development containing student flats has inspired the grassroots Save Leith Walk campaign, with a bunch of local residents forcing open a discussion on what exactly they want their neighbourhood to be.
Although there are other businesses and residents involved, few have campaigned as forcefully against the build as Leith Depot itself, and few will be a greater loss when their lease comes to an end and they're forced to abandon the venue. 'It's a small space but it's great,' says the Depot's live booker Ryan Drever. 'The sound is surprisingly good and it's got a sort of familiarity to it, it's reminiscent of old rooms which most bands will have played when they were just kids coming through. All of the owners and most of the staff are musicians, so I think the connection to spaces like that and what you can do with them is something that resonates with everyone here.
'Given our current situation,' he continues, 'I feel like now's the time to shout louder and make more noise than ever before, so a week of stacked shows seemed like a good start to me.' Drever is talking about Love Live Music Week, the Depot's week of live shows over the next seven days which he's put together quickly following an idea hatched with his friend, Neil Pennycook of Meursault. Artists playing over the week include the Spook School, Spinning Coin, Pictish Trail, Man of Moon, Chrissy Barnacle, Hailey Beavis, Jamie Sutherland of Broken Records and Drever's former Paws bandmate Phillip Taylor.
'I know it's probably a cop out to say I'm excited about all of it, but it's true,' says Drever. 'However, I'd probably say that seeing the Spook School in our wee room upstairs is very exciting for me, because I love them, they're just such a high energy band and having seen them pack out Summerhall a couple of months ago, it's very exciting to have them crammed into a much smaller space again.' He speaks of the process of approaching bands to play because they're his friends, and this sense of community is one which the Depot reflects; it's a well-known meeting place and a host for events by grassroots local organisation; events this week will raise funds and/or awareness for St Columba's Hospice, Drake Music Scotland and the Music Venue Trust.
'The Save Leith Walk campaign is definitely not Leith Depot-specific, and there are many other businesses in the block that face an uncertain future,' says Drever. 'But I think what resonates with many people is that we're representative of a wider problem in Edinburgh, which is an increasingly long list of vanishing music venues. It paints a picture of a negative attitude towards – or at least a lack of respect for – independent live music in the city, and I think our situation represents an opportunity to say 'no more' to unnecessary live venue closures.
'While I'm relatively new to the Depot, these folks have worked extremely hard to build up a solid reputation in such a short period of time,' he continues, 'and I believe it's rare to have a place where essentially whoever wants to book it can do whatever they want with it. We have people from all over the community, the city and the country using it all the time, from Death Metal to dance classes, film screenings and talks to the sweatiest punk shows of your life, folk nights, parties, fundraisers... It just seems to make sense to me that this kind of place should be allowed to flourish in a city like Edinburgh, and particularly in Leith, where the local community value it so much. I don't know if it's my place to say what Leith wants or what Leith needs, but it will lose a great place to hang out and hear live music, and those are getting pretty thin on the ground these days.'
Love Live Music Week is at Leith Depot, Edinburgh, Mon 9–Sun 15 Jul.
Love Live Music Week
A week-long celebration of live music and fundraising event for Save Leith Walk, St Columba's Hospice and Drake Music Scotland, featuring the likes of The Spook School, Spinning Coin, Callum Easter, Chrissy Barnacle and more.