22nd April 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Shetland Life: Editorial

A sad farewell

It is strange to think of the Street without Clive’s Record Shop. It is strange to think that such a significant part of Shetland’s cultural life will no longer be there.

I say significant because Clive’s was never just a shop. It was never just a place to buy and take home music. At least it never was for me.

As a music-obsessed youth, I must have spent a great deal of my time and certainly most of my pocket money within those walls. And when I learned, later, that my own tastes consistently overlapped with those of the shop’s owner, Clive Munro, it became ever easier to put money on the counter, particularly when my first part-time jobs left me with something like expendable income.

These purchases, made in my teenage years, were formative ones. And while there were mistakes, of course – albums that have since found their way to the charity shop or to the bin – much of that music has accompanied me ever since. It has shaped and influenced me, and brought a great deal of enjoyment. I am consistently grateful for it, and grateful to Clive as the person who provided it.

Latterly though, I was an irregular visitor. I lost the bug for buying new music, and when I moved out of town, browsing the shelves was no longer such a simple pleasure. These days a new CD is a rare event for me, and it will be rarer still from now on. But I feel guilty for my absence, and I wish that I’d been a more faithful customer.

The reasons for the shop’s decline are fairly easy to identify, as Clive himself points out in his interview this month with Neil Riddell (page 15). Internet sellers such as Amazon, the digitisation of music, as well as the expansion of Tesco in Shetland, have all had an impact. People, in short, are taking their money elsewhere.

It’s an old story now, but there are no signs of it ending any time soon. Local, independent shops are undercut by larger chains and online stores. Local, independent shops close down. The result is plain to see: town centres around the country become awful, identikit high streets, with the same few brand names dominating everything. Or else they become ghost towns.

It is not hard to imagine Commercial Street heading towards that second fate, with businesses replaced by charity shops or empty windows. It’s a depressing thought, but these are the choices we are making, this is the direction we are going. If it happens, it will be our fault alone.

Clive’s was one of the best independent music stores I have ever encountered – a great selection, good prices and helpful, knowledgeable staff. We were lucky to have such a shop. But what was most important was that this was a place where customers made a personal connection with what was bought and sold, and where browsing for music was a social event. Online shopping and supermarket bargain bins are a poor replacement for what has been lost.

* * *

As if there weren’t enough obstacles already for those wishing to go away to university, young islanders are now being penalised, it seems, for having to travel too far to reach their places of study.

Students Awards Agency Scotland, which previously offered payments based on the actual cost of travel, has this year changed its policy so that students will only receive a sum relative to the size of loan for which they are eligible. The maximum amount available is now £350 per year – considerably less than most island students would expect to spend on three trips home.

There are good intentions behind this change, I suspect. But as usual, the needs of those from rural and island regions have not been properly considered.

A petition has been launched by three students – Astryd Jamieson, Victoria Laurenson and Gemma Mann – in the hope that the policy can be changed for future years. The petition can be found online at www.petitionbuzz.com/saasdiscrimination.

Malachy Tallack