Concerns aired over Proclaimers gig and Borders Book Festival clash

Thousands of pop fans are expected to flock to Melrose this summer to see the Proclaimers return to the Borders, but their visit isn’t music to the ears of everyone in the town.

By Kirsty Smyth
Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 3:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 3:50 pm
The Proclaimers. Photo: Murdo Macleod
The Proclaimers. Photo: Murdo Macleod

The Edinburgh duo, twins Craig and Charlie Reid, will play to a 4,000-strong crowd at the Battery Dyke rugby pitch in Annay Road on Saturday, June 15.

However, Melrose Rugby Club, the gig’s organiser, has come in for criticism after it emerged it will coincide with the Borders Book Festival.

Now in its 15th year, a host of speakers will be take to stages at the festival – including historian Neil Oliver, TV presenter Michaela Strachan and impressionist Jan Ravens – as the Proclaimers perform just a few hundred metres away from the literary event’s St Mary’s Road base.

That has led to concerns over noise interference and resources being stretched.

Raising the issue at last week’s meeting of Melrose Community Council, Martin Baird said: “I can’t believe that Melrose Rugby Club have arranged this concert on the Saturday night of the book festival. There’s going to be 4,000 people there. How can the council and the police service let this happen?

“The book festival has been going on for years, yet sadly the rugby club people who arranged this concert did not talk to them, or anybody else in the town, about it first.

“It sums them up and their attitude to this community.”

Scottish Borders Council said that the clash of dates was not its responsibility, with a spokesman adding: “Both events have gone through our multi-agency safety advisory group process, and we have held joint meetings to ensure that we minimise the impact on the community and have a structured and managed traffic management plan in place.

“The concert promoters are putting in place a park-and-ride system that will prevent excessive parking in and around Melrose and ScotRail have increased their capacity to provide enhanced transport options for attendees at both events.

“The police are fully sighted on the plans and will put in place an operational response policing plan on the evening.”

He added that both the book festival and the Proclaimers concert would provide significant economic benefits for Melrose and the wider Borders.

The rugby club, recently subject to a change of personnel, has promised to work to avoid clashes in the future, though.

A spokeswoman for the club said: “The new board of Melrose Rugby are very keen to create a stronger working relationship with the Borders Book Festival going forward.

“The Proclaimers concert has been relocated to the Battery Dyke rugby pitch, 100m along Annay Road, to allow the Borders Book Festival the same parking arrangements as in previous years.

“In future, the club intend to strengthen our ties with the Borders Book Festival to minimise any potential clashes as we understand the value all our activities bring to our shared community.”

Festival chairman Michael Moore said: “The book festival has been working closely with the rugby club and concert promoters ever since we were told about the event.

“Under the council’s event management arrangements, we are working hard and doing our bit to ensure that the festival runs smoothly.

“For our part, we are committed to ensuring that visitors and residents of the town can once again enjoy the region’s most successful arts festival on this, its 15th anniversary.”

The Proclaimers, last seen in the Borders at Kelso’s Tait Hall in 2015, announced their return to the region last autumn. Part of a 14-month, the Leith duo, formed in 1983, will play four Scottish dates – in Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Melrose.

Their biggest hits are Letter from America, a No 3 in 1987, and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), a No 11 in 1988 and No 1 after being re-recorded for charity in 2007.