Records stacked in crates

Aberdeen prepares for Record Store Day

Sales of records have gone through the roof in recent years as music fans appreciate the analogue sound and the tactile feel of vinyl. It's no secret that vinyl is much more collectible, and the covers just look so much better at full size. Record Store Day is a twice annual event to celebrate the culture of the independently owned record stores. The day brings together stores from around the world with fans and artists.

Many artists release records specifically for Record Store Day. These are only distributed to shops participating in the event. Three Aberdeen shops are taking place in the event on Saturday 12th June. Chameleon Records, Red Robin Records and Maidinvinyl.

Chameleon Records in Aberdeen
Photo by Chris Sansbury

Chameleon Records

We spoke to Terry Charleton who’ll be helping owner Michael Moloney at Chameleon Records at it's new home. He told us, “Chameleon will be hosting its 7th RSD and this year they have relocated to inside Holburn HiFi. It’s the ideal partnership for music lovers. Previous RSD has seen fans queuing from the wee small hours but with Covid restrictions this is replaced by a virtual queue where people book a time slot to visit the shop via the website."

“One of the appeals of the day is chatting to al the customer about their purchases as they always super knowledgeable and even what you think is the most obscure release will have someone keen to grab it.”

“There will be some fantastic releases this year. Elton John's is putting out his never previously released Regimental Sgt.Zippo. There's two live albums from The Police and brilliant 12” picture discs from U2 and The Cure and a live album from Fontaines DC. In addition a more mainstream artist release sees Ariana Grande releasing a live album on vinyl for the first time. This is very limited and will be in high demand.”

Red Robin Records in Aberdeen
Photo by Chris Sansbury

Red Robin Records

Red Robin Records on Correction Wynd is also taking part in Record Store Day on Saturday. They’ll be open from 8am and will be on a first come first served basis with only one person allowed in the store at a time.

Owner Nick Duthie told us, “We are excited firstly that RSD is able to run this year. Vinyl lovers will continue to have the opportunity to buy some fantastic new records as well as supporting all the small businesses in Aberdeen partaking in RSD.”

“In regard to albums there are so many great ones on the list. However, there are a few I'm especially excited for. Prince’s The Truth has its first release on vinyl. Also Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy with the Arab Strap on coloured vinyl for the first time. Lounge at the Edge of Town have a self-titled release. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds are releasing a greatest hits on coloured vinyl called Back The Way We Came: Vol 1 (2011-2021). There is a coloured three disc version of The Matrix Soundtrack. Finally, Primal Scream have a 15 year anniversary extended version of their classic, Riot City Blues.”

Aberdeen's Record Stores

Aberdeen has number of fantastic independent record stores that stock great vinyl all year round. Therefor you have a load of choice depending on your particular taste. These include:

Aberdeen Vinyl Records 101 Union St, Aberdeen AB11 6BD
Maidinvinyl Records 7 Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen AB25 1NE
Spin Records 10 Littlejohn St, Aberdeen AB10 1FG
Forecast Records 13A Belmont St, Aberdeen AB10 1JR
Chameleon Records 441 Holburn St, Aberdeen AB10 7GU
Red Robin Records Vinyl Cafe 13 Correction Wynd, Aberdeen AB10 1HP

Finally, thanks so much to the teams at Red Robin Records and Chameleon. They've given us a real taste of Record Store Day. It's sure to be a huge day for all the record stores in Aberdeen. If you're taking part this Saturday, make sure to plan ahead and remember to wear a mask.

POST have set up a playlist to support Aberdeen musicians. A place where you can find new music by Aberdeen and NE Scotland’s very talented singers, songwriters, bands and producers. Read the story about why we made it happen.


Temp Check - Louise Grant from Aberdeen’s Fierce Beer

We chat with Louise Grant about building a brewery, running a business through the covid emergency and bouncing back with the help of community.

Louise Grant has been the friendly face of Fierce since it's inception...the welcoming smile. In our latest Temp Check Interview, we caught up with her to talk about her part in building the brewery, running a business through the covid emergency, and bouncing back with the help of the community. We also touch on her personal challenges and the amazing support from her husband Dave.


Hi Louise. I know life is very busy for you right now as Fierce has begun to welcome consumers face to face so thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions. We’ll stick with tradition by opening with “how are you doing right now?”

I am tip top and you?

I’m really good! I’ve been dying to talk to you for ages about your story, so tell us a little about your background and the part you played in starting Fierce family.

I left school (hated it) and had no desire for college or university (probably because I didn’t know what I wanted to do) and landed my first job in an oil service company just before I turned 18. From then I was always in oil, Drilling and Completions, for a couple of operators, but I always had a great job and loved what I did. My husband Dave and I moved to Cape Town in South Africa for a few years with oil, then returned in 2012. I got my job back at Chevron, still at the same desk and all the contents of shit I had left in the drawer!! It felt like I had never been away, ha ha!

When we came back, BrewDog’s Flagship bar was open, and Dave and I spent most of our weekends in there making friends with the regulars. When we first tasted Punk IPA we were like “what is this witchcraft?” Having spent years drinking Castle and Windhoek which tasted of nothing, it was a real eye opener for us.

Our house was like Breaking Bad, loads of stuff sitting bubbling away.

Dave used to cycle a lot over there so when he came back, he was always looking for a hobby. A couple of the regulars used to homebrew, so Dave got chatting to them (Rick the Dentist deserves a shout out), and they inspired Dave to take it up. Our house was like Breaking Bad, loads of stuff sitting bubbling away. I was ‘Assistant to the Brewer’ which technically was a cleaner, but cleaning is one of the most important parts in beer making so I’m OK with that!

Louise Grant at Fierce Bar in Aberdeen
Louise at Aberdeen's Fierce Bar - Photo supplied by Louise Grant

How did things develop from a hobby to a business?

Dave enrolled in a weeklong Brewlab brewing course in Sunderland and that’s where he met Dave McHardy who was also from Aberdeen and called Dave…the weirdest thing was my Dave also worked with Dave M’s wife Sheena. So random and yet clearly meant to be. Dave M was working at the time as a brewer (also an avid homebrewer) for Wooha Brewing.

The never-ending turbulence of the oil industry, layoffs, cost cutting etc really got Dave down and he was so fed up. I asked him what he wanted to do, he said make beer. Me being me, said “fuck it, let’s do it!” So we did. It was very scary, exciting and a bit crazy. We then registered Fierce as a brewery from the house with HMRC…that was 23 March 2015.

We used to take samples to the Flagship for people to taste. Dave was so good at it. For having not done it before, the recipes he came up with were brilliant! Cranachan Killer (Kenny Burns needs a shout out for this. His suggestion then Dave developed it), Café Racer and Heffen Heff to name a few were home brew recipes that we still make now.

So we are beginning to see what we now recognise as Fierce Beer today. How did you grow from there?

We built up a great relationship with BrewDog who were super supportive when we started and are still now. James [Watt] said we could do a tap take over at the Flagship. I think we are still the only brewery that has ever had a TTO with homebrew in a Brewdog venue…and it sold out fast. The buzz and the feeling of people enjoying what you have created was so thrilling and so satisfying.

After that it was clear that we could not continue doing this from home, especially full time, so we got our first premises in Dyce. A very surreal day getting the keys on 1st April 2016. We ordered all the kit and by May we had our first commercial beers out on the street.

And you were an integral part of this growing business?

I was still working in oil, at that time we thought I should keep working to keep money coming in. We both had high paying jobs so to go from that to nothing seemed ridiculous. By day three Dave and Dave said they needed me to quit my job, so I joined on May 1st 2016. We went with ridiculous!!

It’s not always been easy though…cashflow, working 18-hour days, not really knowing what we were doing. We ate and breathed nothing but Fierce and it was gruelling.

I would take care of all the admin side, sales, accounts etc (not that I really knew what I was doing) but we managed and now having just celebrated our official 5th birthday, it’s insane and overwhelming to see how far we have come in such a short time.

It’s not always been easy though…cashflow, working 18-hour days, not really knowing what we were doing. We ate and breathed nothing but Fierce and it was gruelling. But when you are so passionate about something, you just do it. 😊 Absolutely no regrets.

I work for a small business and know that job titles often don’t really explain what your job actually entails; so what does a working day look like for you?

My job is a bit of everything to be honest, accounts, payroll, HR (one of our employees said that I was the reason Fierce needs an HR department lol), sales, exports, supermarkets, supporting the bars and customer service which is No. 1 in my opinion. 

This might be a difficult question, but I’m really keen to know what your initial feelings were as we all went into lockdown, and how that changed through the following few weeks.

It was the weirdest thing ever. I didn’t really understand it and thought it would blow over in a few weeks (like most people I assume) but yet here we are over a years later! It has been so tough, keeping up with what we can and cannot do under restrictions. Having bars in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester rules were different. It was so hard to get your head around and keep up. Every week it was changing. We had to adapt our business model, going from kegs and cans to all small pack as we had nowhere to sell kegs. It was really challenging. Luckily, we have a very smart, dynamic team and we rolled with the punches!

What was the biggest challenge for you personally through the pandemic.

I have MS so I have been working from home since March 2020. It’s tough not being with your team physically, but I am lucky I can do my job remotely, though you do miss the buzz of being in the brewery. I have had both jabs now so I will be able to work back there too. However, since I’ve been away my desk has been stolen!! Rude!

The stress of worrying if we would come out the other side was hard to swallow. When you have put everything you have into a business, the thought of losing it is the hardest and scariest thing to come to terms with.

We launched a ‘paying it forward’ crowdfund April 2020. People would invest and get 1½ times back in beer, discounts at our bars and online for life, and rewards for different amounts invested. If we did not have the support of those investors we would not have survived, and for that I am forever grateful. Typing this I have a lump in my throat 😔

Have challenges faced by your industry pulled independent breweries together in any way? Equally…have they driven some apart?

We are very lucky to have great relationships with other breweries. We used to do beer swaps so we would stock their beers in our bottle shops and vice versa. That really worked well. I don’t know of anything that has driven some apart but there have been many breweries that have had to close their doors, which is heart breaking. If you don’t have an outlet like we do to sell beer you have literally nothing coming in. Having an online web shop and bars to open as bottle shops helped us enormously.

Having the furlough scheme available was amazing. We managed to keep all our team employed which was ace!

What lessons do you think you will you take forward to the future as we cautiously move to the end of the pandemic emergency?

The world will never be the same again and this pandemic has taught us to never take anything for granted. We will always be cautious of how we operate now, ensuring we make the best quality products we can. Beer is a luxury item; many people have lost their jobs so making sure we have top end ingredients and beer for people that is affordable. Customer loyalty is important to keep Fierce alive. Looking after the team has been top priority for us. We are so lucky to have a dedicated long serving team, which is unique in this industry.

Louise Grant jokingly drinking two glasses of red wine.
Sometimes the pressure begins to tell - Photo supplied by Louise Grant

Fierce have been on the go for over five years now. What are your hopes for the evolution of the company through the rest of this year and beyond?

This year, plans are in motion to double capacity. We have ordered more tanks and a new canning line which we will have over the next few months. We have also employed new people to help grow the business (people who know what they are doing, ha ha.) A financial controller, Anel, who is doing a brilliant job keeping us right, and a General Manager who starts next month. She will be able to take work off myself and the Daves and have proper focus.

Dave and Dave still currently do packaging and brewing. They need to take a step back from that and do their jobs.

How do you see those roles?

Dave G doing what he does best. New strategies to grow the sales side and developing new recipes. We have two excellent brewers in Neil and James who have really helped improve our beers. They are tasting the best they ever have.

Dave M concentrating on the operations side and making sure the equipment is top and working more efficiently.

I will be focused on sales and customer service and that is what I do best, if I have all the other tasks, I mentioned before away from me I will be able to get stuck in.

Surviving! Things change all the time, but I think if we continue to do what we are doing we should be ok.

Community obviously means a great deal to Fierce Beer. What’s your secret for keeping your people engaged?

Community is EVERYTHING to Fierce. I think making interesting good beer to keep people engaged is the most important, and listening to your customers feedback to improve. Showing respect, being normal, approachable and treating people the way you want to be treated goes a long way. Be kind and honest. We are super transparent as a company, maybe too much. We are all human we make mistakes but when that happens just say “yes, we mucked up,” then learn from it and move on.

I love people. I’m a people person 😊

Who inspires you, and why?

Don’t get the sick bucket out, but my husband. Dave is the most hard-working person I know, takes everything in his stride and adapts when necessary. He is my hero, I am very proud of him. When I was diagnosed with MS not long ago, I think he was a bit traumatised. He worries about me a lot.

How have you coped yourself with the diagnosis?

I am honestly good, keeping well and working hard. We are the best team and lucky to have survived running a business together and being married. We live another day!

I’m going to pull out a classic job interview question…Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’ll put it back to your readers. Is there anything you would like to tell us? Anything we can improve on or do better. Any feedback positive or negative is always appreciated.


Thank you so much to Louise for her time. You can find Fierce Beer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Go follow, say hi, and let them know your thoughts on their amazing beers. They really are a friendly bunch.


Gary Kemp holding up a skateboard

Temp Check: Gary Kemp of Doric Skateboards

Doric Skateboards was launched in 2017. Gary Kemp wanted to create a brand that the skating community in the city could be proud of…and at the same time bringing in new skaters to the scene, along with those that had drifted away over time. He’s worked with artists to create unique boards that have become huge talking points as they are released.


Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Gary. We wanted to know how your 2020 has panned out, but we’ll start with the simple question…how are you feeling right now?

A mixture between complete apathy and nervous energy! That anxiety that tells you should be doing something “productive,” but then apathy says “nah, don’t worry just watch Netflix.” But overall I am ok…I think!

What inspired you to launch your own skateboard company?

It may sound trite but it was a genuine desire to do something creative, start my own thing, and to be in control. It was during the last oil price crash and redundancy threatened. My coping mechanism was to start this up. I’d got back on my skateboards a few years previously and was enjoying the nostalgia and the occasional role.

It was during the last oil price crash and redundancy threatened. My coping mechanism was to start this up.

One-person companies are rarely that in reality. Who in your community helped Doric Skateboards along the way?

Absolutely. And I like to think I give props to those who deserve it — in fact my website has a page doing exactly that!

My family are obviously front line — Nicola and my Mum have to listen to me. It must be painful. My brother Mark helped get me going with logo, strategy for launching etc. but others in the city are hugely supportive in many ways. Peacocks Visual ArtsCreative LearningRGU/Grays School of Art/Look AgainTransition ExtremeGrey Area InkThe Sticker Job, and Creative-me-podcast have all have been very welcoming and supportive whether I’ve reached out or they have…and without them all this would all be very different.

Doric Skateboards sticker in Aberdeen city centre.

Photo by Chris Sansbury
Photo by Chris Sansbury

Aberdeen features strongly in Doric Skateboards branding and designs. What was the thinking behind this decision?

I’ve always defended Aberdeen. I find the old stereotypes so tedious. Even if there is truth to some, I think we should talk ourselves up more. We’ve got a beautiful city and surrounding area. It’s totally not without its problems…but where hasn’t? So I feel responsible for talking up our culture, our history, our people. Before doing this I had little appreciation for what had happened and is happening in the city culture wise. Now I do I’ll always try to champion that too.

2020 has been an extremely tough year for many, while some have been lucky enough to be able to use it as an opportunity. How would you say you have coped through this wildly crazy year?

I’m not sure I have coped to be honest. I think most of us are trying our best to function without focusing on that existential dread that is around the corner and all around us. I’m getting up, working from home and functioning and I think for now that’s ok!

Running Doric Skateboards has its positives and negatives when it comes to this year. Part of me felt that what I do is so trivial that I was a bit embarrassed to talk about it.

Running Doric Skateboards has its positives and negatives when it comes to this year. Part of me felt that what I do is so trivial that I was a bit embarrassed to talk about it. But we all need something in life to help us through — just the act of creating new stuff was enough for me. I managed to kick off some collaborations, and a wee design competition really helped to give me something to focus on.

What motivates you?

Ha! That assumes I am motivated. I honestly don’t see myself as a motivated person. I tackle what’s in front of me and keep everything else in the periphery as much as I can, then turn to that when I have to/want to. But actual motivation? I get excited to see something come together — a new design, a new collaboration — what ever it is. It’s gratifying to see that become a physical thing.

And the opposite…what demotivates you?

Feeling self-conscious. I’ve had that my whole life and its stopped me doing so much. Being so self-conscious essentially leads to complete lack of confidence. It’s a bizarre thing to feel at 44. But there it is! I think it wouldn’t matter how good I was at something I would always have that feeling of not belonging. Who knows? Maybe its because I listened to too much of The Smiths at school. 😉

Doric Skateboards on the screen printing rack.

Photo by Chris Sansbury
Photo by Chris Sansbury

You very proudly screen print some of your own boards. Why bother doing this in such a time intensive way?

Well I think its part of the DIY culture within skateboarding. All the old school brands didn’t just appear as factory ready; they started in garages and spare rooms. I also think its important to put your hands on the things you sell. This year I’ve tried to learn how to screen print Doric Skateboard branded clothing myself. This has been a real challenge! But I’m just as happy now to get some of the designs printed for me. It all depends on how suitable they are to my skills! But I do think that you should get your hands dirty from time to time!

You are known for your collaborations with local artists as well as those from further afield. Why is that?

I must admit that I didn’t really think about collaborations when I started. Outside of Vanilla Ice the word “collaborate” wasn’t in my vocabulary! So they have happened quite organically — it was never a part of a master plan. I didn’t have one then and still don’t! 😄

Has the pandemic changed you as a person or as a small business owner?

Well I think we’ll need to wait and see but I suspect we have all changed to some degree. I think that the increase we’ve seen in small businesses setting up, a big uptake in new hobbies/sports etc is very reminiscent of where I was 5 or so years ago when I set up Doric. People crave something to control in a world where you perhaps have none — or not as much as you had. Starting something new, learning something, taking part in something — that helps fill that gap for me and reduces the time I spend sitting catastrophising things!


We'd like to thank Gary for taking the time for a chat. It's inspiring to read about a business growing from a small idea and a lot of love. You can follow Doric Skateboards on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Read more of our temp check interviews. This one with Ica Headlam talks about We Are Here Scotland, his campaign to elevate creatives of colour throughout Scotland.


Temp Check: We drop in with with Stuart McPhee from Siberia Bar & Hotel

Aberdeen’s hospitality sector has been hit extremely hard by Covid-19. Business has been massively curtailed and the staff that are still working are on the frontline of an industry that has always had to tread a think line between safety and fun.

One of the many venues in the city that has worked positively within the Scottish Government restrictions is Siberia Bar & Hotel. We thought it was time to catch up with their director, Stuart McPhee, who has also taken an active role in speaking up for the industry. 🌡


Hi Stuart, this seems like a simple question, but how are you doing right now?

I’m doing well personally…my wife is due our third child in December and excitement building in the house for Christmas. Professionally, it feels consistently like one step forward two steps back a lot of the time, but we’re remaining resilient.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m originally from Kirkcaldy, went to University in Dundee and moved to the Granite City about 8 years ago. I’ve worked in the hospitality sector for over a decade and worked my way from being a glass collector in a nightclub to where I am now at Siberia. I’m happily married with 2.9 kids residing in a wonderful little village in Aberdeenshire called Methlick…and I enjoy when I can put the boots on for the local football team there.

We were relieved to understand what was needed from us and we knew that there would be help coming in terms of support at the time. We also thought that it would be short-term and nobody would have considered impacts going on this far down the line.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I don’t have a typical day. Every day presents it’s own unique challenges. My wife will testify to me working 24/7…even when I’m home I’m not off. I’m generally in the bar for 8am and home for 7pm (kids bedtime) and whatever happens in between we solve the problems and we get through the day.

The initial lockdown was a blow to everyone, but especially those in hospitality. Do you remember how you felt at that time?

I remember welcoming the initial lockdown at the time as there had been so many unknown quantities. We were operating as we normally would have been at the time and when you compare that to all the mitigations we now have in place…it’s crazy to think about! We were relieved to understand what was needed from us and we knew that there would be help coming in terms of support at the time. We also thought that it would be short-term and nobody would have considered impacts going on this far down the line.

What have some of those longer term impacts looked like?

The biggest long term challenge is having the vision to see what they are. It’s my view that the only way to get out of this is by growing and diversifying our business. I’ve been looking to invest time and effort in advancing our food offering and faculties. That’s my own business view, but for the sector as a whole I think that the landscape post vaccine will be completely different with a new found respect and value for the freedoms that will return to us. Hopefully it’ll be a time where we can look back on our present position and be thankful for the lessons learned.

Did lockdown mean you had more time away from the bar? How did you spend that extra time?

I did have extra time away from the venue, I spent it at home with my kids. My wife is a nurse in a GP practice and she worked right through the initial lockdown, so I was on Daddy Day Care most of the time. That time was so valuable. Time I would never have gotten before and will never get again. Between that and doing work around the house painting, decorating, organising, moving furniture around to see if you like one room one way or one room another!

Siberia seem to have a very strong community of staff and customers, how have they supported you through 2020?

You know I think we have all just muddled through really. There was no real sense of needing to support anyone, it was very much continuing the sense of community we have always had just having to find other ways of connecting. Zoom quizzes being one example.

One of our chefs, Micky, created something called Sibeira Wrestling, a championship and recorded simulations of matches between people from the bar and broadcasted them for us to watch. We all had our unique ways of getting through it…a couple of shandies here and there, but mainly making sure we checked on with everyone as often as possible.

What has been some of your biggest frustrations?

Communication and information sharing. In the first lockdown there was such a lack of communication as to how we would be moving forward, what is the exit plan, how do we get this all under control and how to we get back to normal. No one seems to have a clear vision and thrust for this. And I felt a lot of time I was finding out things too slowly.

Has the pandemic made a difference to your personal priorities?

It has for sure! I have very much gone into survival mode and would never have once considered myself as someone who is confident doing interviews or television etc. but now I’ll do anything I can to make sure that our voice as a business and a city is heard in a constructive and considered fashion. It has very much heightened a lot of the priorities we ran with before, and all I want to do is be able to look after the people around me, whether that’s my immediate or extended work family.

Tell us a little about the support you have been lending to the wider hospitality sector?

The sector as a whole is really not being listened to or connected to properly by governments in any country. There’s a lack of understanding as to how these businesses operate and their ecosystem. What happens to footfall when these businesses are not operational and other sectors like retail are.

Out of the depths of despair in the Aberdeen lockdown there was a need for businesses to come together to forge our way out of it collectively and thus we formed an information sharing organisation called Aberdeen Hospitality Together. This brought together 141 venues on the city. And as a result of that I have been brought into conversations at a local level to discuss issues with the local authority weekly and also a national platform with helping to be part of both newly formed groups the Scottish Hospitality Group and the NTIA Scotland Commission.

I’ve also been campaigning for positive trade representation and a joined up approach to communication. On a local level I help businesses that have questions I share information, on a national level I help inform messaging, participate in meetings and do the best I can to get the message across that hospitality is a wonderful sector to be a part of both now and into the future.

If you could give advice to the March 2020 version of yourself, what would it be?

Don’t change a thing. Do exactly everything you think is right and every point you think you have to do it. Stick to what you think and know is the right thing to do and it will serve you well.


It's been great to catch up with Stuart and hear his frank views on the challenges he has been facing through 2020. You can follow him on Twitter. You can also find the latest on Siberia Bar and Hotel by checking out their Facebook page. The Scottish Hospitality Group have set up a petition calling on the Scottish Government for better protection of the sector and it’s employees.


Temp Check : We catch up with Colin Farquhar from Aberdeen’s Belmont Filmhouse cinema

We've now faced restrictions to our lives in Aberdeen for the past 8 months, and while Covid-19 has meant that we all have to share the burden of stopping the spread of the virus, there’s a cost to our mental health. We decided to check in with Aberdeen folk to see how they are coping at this point..and hopefully learn a little bit more about them along the way.

First up we’re checking in with Colin Farquhar, Head of Cinema at the Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen’s last independent cinema, who have been forced to close again recently because film distribution in the UK has ground to a hault.


Hey Colin. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about how you are currently dealing with life in pandemic Aberdeen. We’ll start off with a simple one…how are you doing right now?

Good…I think. It’s a strange time for everyone and that includes me. I’ve been part-time furloughed since Saturday (7th November 2020) and that will be an adjustment as I hadn’t been before. Quite often we go on holiday at this time of year, so I’ve a feeling of absence about that, as we obviously can’t travel. Generally good, though. I’ve held up fairly well this year, which I’m proud of as like most folk I can be fragile as well.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up in Whitehills which is a wee fishing village of about a thousand people, just on the Banffshire coast. Beautiful place, not much to do, but I’m very grateful for the prettiness and people when I go back. I moved to Aberdeen to do Media and Communications at Aberdeen College in 2003 when I was 18 and then after a bit of course juggling did English Lit. at Aberdeen Uni, graduating in 2009. I got a part-time job at the Belmont at the end of 2007.

My folks are mostly fishing and farming stock. My Dad worked on boats until he decided it was too hard a life (I can’t disagree) and my Mum was a nurse at Ladysbridge, which is a now mostly closed mental health hospital just outside the village. My direct family and much of my extended family, work in social care now.

What made you fall in love with movies?

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is a cupboard in my Mum’s house full of recorded VHSs from my early teens of stuff that I was still much too young to watch. I’d write the name of the film on the side of the black box in marker pen in an attempt to make it more readable — Taxi Driver, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Deer Hunter. So there was dozens of these tapes at home that I’d watch a lot. Those late night Channel 4 films.

Prior to that I have a lot of fond memories of going to Elgin and Aberdeen to the cinema as a kid to watch films. Big day was the first time we watched two films in the cinema on one day. My wee brother wanted to watch MiB and I was keen on Jurassic Park: The Lost World. I think that Jurassic Park, and I’ll refer to that original film rather than the entire franchise, had a huge impact on me in terms of what cinema can achieve. I was the right age, it got me into dinosaurs and it’s still the first film I think of when someone talks about the spectacle of cinema or the cinema. It remains one of my favourite films.

What is your favourite part of your working day?

I guess all jobs have their routine to them so whenever I get to step away from the admin and talk to customers is a bright spot because you end up talking about films and that’s nice. I feel I’ve been able to do that a lot more recently. If there’s one upside of COVID on cinema it’s that we’ve been able to brush away a lot of the cobwebs and focus on the real core stuff like my team and the punters. I’ve enjoyed that immensely.

Working in a cinema is also just full of the occasional pinches that you work in a cinema. So when you do something in a projection room when a film is playing and even a wee glance at the light through the window reminds you of the magic…that romantic stuff. We’re lucky enough that you manage to experience that at least once a week.

Without having to deal with the public quite so much, did you have time to develop any new skills…or catch up on some great movies?

I spent a lot of time reading Scot Gov COVID regulation. I’m unsure if that’s a new skill…Usually I’d try and apply downtime to reading but I’ve found concentrating on that more difficult than usual this year.

I did watch quite a lot of films. MUBI had a great run of Bergman stuff through the summer so I saw Cries and Whispers and The Silence and Autumn Sonata and a few others for the first time. I also watched Le Cercle Rouge which I hadn’t seen before. It’s probably the best film I’ve watched all year. I watched a lot of films until we reopened strangely but work has been pretty full on since then.

I also walked around the city a lot, particularly in early lockdown. I moved flat last November so did a lot of trekking around the West End and out to Cults and around Hazelhead. I was mostly back in the office from mid-June and from that point on it was pretty much full bore in terms of reopening planning. So it limits what you can apply yourself to. My headspace was always focused on the mechanics of how Belmont would run, operationally anyway.

How has your community helped both you and The Belmont through lockdown?

The response from the community for our fundraising was amazing. I never expected to raise that amount. It was quite overwhelming. I’ve really felt like people rallied round us and that’s from the hardcore membership and audience to folk who used to come but moved away and then the friends and family of the staff. It helped keep me going. I was still working on my own at that point and reading the letters in particular that came in with the donations (lots of people still send cheques instead of donating online) was lovely.

Photo: Chris Sansbury

The latest closure of the Belmont must have felt like a real blow. Tell us about that decision.

It was hard — I think this year has been quite an acute demonstration of how much we mean to people and that makes these decisions really tough. You know how much people will miss you if you close. The reality was every film we had booked for November dropped off the slate. The audience also petered away a little after the PM announced harder restrictions down south so we felt it became the common sense decision to shut.

But, it’s not March. March was, in all honesty, frightening. On this occasion we felt we were making a controlled choice and although finances will remain a worry for some time we know what we have. Thanks to support grants from Screen Scotland and the extension of the furlough scheme we’re in a better place. All being well we’ll reopen early December and then get into the Xmas stuff.

I take it you have a date in your head for the reopening of the cinema, which I’m sure you don’t want to commit to just yet, but what will influence that final decision to open?

Ideally we’re looking at 4th December but I wouldn’t want anyone to take that as verbatim. If lockdown extends down south then that sets as back, as would a lockdown in Scotland. I’m also expecting the UK and Scottish Governments to relax household rules for Xmas. That might yet have a trade off with other restrictions. If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year it’s that everything is subject to change, so you’ve got to be realistic, flexible and patient.

I think this year has been quite an acute demonstration of how much we mean to people and that makes these decisions really tough. You know how much people will miss you if you close.

Who has inspired you recently?

I think everyone to an extent. Seeing people having the will to get on with things and go to work in a year like this has been quite astonishing. I see that in my team, colleagues in Edinburgh and my friends.

My Dad, specifically. I hope he wouldn’t mind me mentioning this but my Dad lost his wife in early in the pandemic to cancer. It was all very quick and sudden. He was due to go back to work when the pandemic was at its peak in mid-April and I told him no one would judge him if he took another week or two off work. He told me that that may be considered selfish and back to work he went. I’ve definitely carried that in my head since. He’s been a star. My brother has also had a kid among all these so that’s been a wee celebration amongst everything. It keeps you going.

Also, with the realisation that it can come across as contrived to point to politicians, particularly current ones, I have a lot of admiration for how Nicola Sturgeon has handled the pandemic. That’s not to say the Scottish Government have done everything perfectly, but being able to get up in front of the country every day for six months and talk them through it is quite a feat. It’s a good example. As someone who manages people it helps a lot.

Do you think you have been changed by the pandemic?

This will be a long answer — I’m not sure. I am someone who is perennially asking myself what I’m good at or what my nature is and this pandemic breeds more of that, so you lose perspective on yourself the same as any other time.

It has made me value more what is close to me; but at the same time I miss travelling. It does teach you can get by on simple pleasures and routine; but the weeks where I just stuck to work and cooking were the weeks I really needed to do something different at the weekend. Ultimately I think we’ve all found out a lot about balance, but we all knew that already really.

One thing definitely — I’ve found I’m far more resilient than I ever thought and for someone who struggled with anxiety through their 20s that has been reassuring. I’m proud of that. Perhaps that’s learning to give up control a little in a situation you can’t possibly. If I carry that out the other side of the pandemic and can apply it to the micro stuff to I think that’s a positive change.

I’ve found I’m far more resilient than I ever thought and for someone who struggled with anxiety through their 20s that has been reassuring. I’m proud of that.

Another realisation is — and I’m unsure this is a change — is just how time passes. It’s just as subjective as everything else and it just siphons away like an elastic blob down a drain if you let it. Books or hill-walks or films or pints in the pub with your pals are the checkpoints that slow it down a little. So, I hope I’ll learn to do stuff I enjoy more and that I’ll remember. Those experiences are wee pauses that slow down time and I think, strangely, lengthen it, at least in memory. If that realization leads me to taking life less seriously, or working less, or procrastinating less then that’ll be a positive change too.


Thank you so much to Colin for his time and frankness. You can follow both him and the Belmont Filmhouse on Twitter. If you would like to support Aberdeen’s local independent cinema on a regular basis, consider getting an annual subscription…it gets you some great benefits too.

We’ll be publishing regular temp checks over the next few weeks…keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.