Anna Blair discusses art, craft and city planning in Edinburgh’s Cowgate and Kings Stables Yard

What a transformation to see the sober in droves in the Cowgate last Saturday afternoon venue- crawling to pop-up markets in some of the dingiest pub and club venues in the city.

It was sweetness if not always light, with the dark, cavernous ethos of most of these venues retained. Fine for late-night whatever, this was less suited to appreciating the wide range of arts and crafts on sale at dozens of stall staffed mainly by the under 30s. It was refreshing to go to the Cowgate, now far less staggering but infinitely more sociable, a far cry from the place the city abandoned to late-night drunkenness when thirteen years ago they banned traffic from the area between the hours10pm and 5am.

So , the Old Towners are saying, What’s popping up next? Surprises aren’t always as welcome as the Cowgate experience. What the arts collective Hidden Doors has in mind for Kings Stables Yard next month is a case in point. I’m sure there will be worthwhile art and drama on show but what’s also likely is that it will extend the standard anti-social Grassmarket mayhem by another 300 yards along KSR, closer to where hundreds of folk live (Kings Stables Road, Portsburgh Sq and Webster’s Land) – and for a further 9 days in May! As if the residents haven’t enough to contend with.

The arts fraternity must wake up to the fact that they now have an established urban planning role in making unpopular developments more palatable to planners and an un-enquiring public.  While the dressing of art and festival will fade along with the locals’ sleeplessness and the revellers’ hangovers, what developers have in mind for the city will not be sorted by an afternoon power nap or the hair of the dog.

Anna Blair

Image of the Cowgate Pop-Up Market from Edinburgh Markets' photostream on Flickr used as per Creative Commons license and with thanks.