Pat McGarvey is a vocalist and banjo player with the acclaimed and award-winning Edinburgh-based roots collective Southern Tenant Folk Union. The band’s latest album, The Chuck Norris Project, is their sixth since they formed in 2006 and, like all their releases, was widely praised in the media, with rave reviews from the likes of The Guardian, Independent, Sunday Times, Mojo, Uncut and Irish Times.
Most memorable capital event?
I’ll just say the most recent thing I went to (I have a terrible memory anyway) and mention the live ‘Back To The Future’ screening with Royal Scottish National Orchestra playing Alan Silvestri’s iconic score (with additional music written by him just for the event)…beautiful, passionate playing from the musicians and a joy to see BTTF again after all these years. It made me quite emotional whilst watching to think of all that’s happened to me and the world in the intervening three decades (since a thirteen year old me first watched it). Something that was partly to do with the time travel plot and partly the script and performances being so good – I forgotten how funny it was – and as each joke hit home I was thinking about how I laughed the first times I saw it.
Who would you choose to headline Edinburgh’s Hogmanay?
I don’t suppose I’m allowed to pick ‘The Banjo Lounge 4’ (being as I’m in it)? Our guitarist Barney has been dying to play that gig for years. If I was to try and choose it’d have to be something up-tempo and party- starting – I have heard that there’s a good touring version of Earth Wind & Fire out on the road – maybe Unique Events can get hold of their agent and see if they’re free? Maurice White doesn’t tour anymore but his brother Verdine is still in the band and of course Philip Bailey remains on lead vocals…they’d be amazing…Boogie wonderland!
Favourite old-fashioned boozer?
I’ve got loads all over town I could recommend but will say my local here in Leith, ‘The Malt and Hops’. The owners Lisa and Calum work hard and run it well, it’s very friendly and they’ve always got a great range of real ale on.
Favourite style bar?
Probably The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road because of the interesting beer selection
The kids love La Favourita on Leith Walk and so do me and my wife Debs but when we’re out alone – together we’re more likely to go to Chop Chop on Morrison Street or the Tanjore on Clerk Street… don’t really have a single favourite though.
Do you love or loathe the Festival?
As someone who’s only been living here 8 years I’m trying to stay out of the debate a bit – I can see both sides and have a few mates who enjoy posting things on social media about the ‘festival wanks’ that are funny. Also I can see it’s a big deal for the city and an advert for it worldwide (despite it regularly crushing the artistic dreams and financial stability of countless people). So it’s fine by me, I just stay down in Leith as much as possible to avoid the crowds.
What restaurant would you recommend?
I’d recommend all of the ones I picked above and add a couple down in Leith, there’s Nobles which is a pub but does really nice food, my daughter likes the chips there… also would recommend the tapas place here (Tapa) on a sunny day… they have a little outdoor bit that’s almost like being in a Spanish courtyard as long as you don’t look to the left at the banana flats.
Favourite art gallery?
The gallery at St Margaret’s house just near Meadowbank – it’s a nice big open space that local artists can hire themselves at reasonable rates and I’ve been there a few times now – most recently to see an exhibition by my sister in law’s boyfriend Steven Hood. I don’t go to see art as much here as I did in London so it was very enjoyable – I took the kids on the bus and they got to run around and we all had a nice night.
The Cameo for its faded grandeur and because it leans more towards cult movies (which is closer to my own cinematic taste) than the Filmhouse – though I still go there too. It’s also worth noting that the cinema space in the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street is free to hire and has a really big screen for a small vault and a nice sound system plus that all important atmosphere for communal film watching. I help run the movie society ‘Edinburgh Zombie Club’ there and it’s worth checking out.
dying to play
that gig for years”
Favourite live music venue?
I don’t really have a favourite – there are lots of places I’ve enjoyed playing at like Summerhall, Voodoo Rooms, Pleasance, Storytelling Centre, Liquid Room, etc but nothing stands out. I think there’s a gap in the market for a small to medium capacity venue (maybe with two rooms?) that’s centrally located and is enjoyable to hang out in the bar even if you’re not going to a show there. I know that the Soundhouse Organisation, who run a series of excellent House concerts, are trying to set up something like that so good luck to them.
Favourite walk in or around the city?
From here the obvious one is the Water Of Leith. There’s also a lovely walk up Clermiston/Corstorphine Hill – I really need to get back there over the summer and get the walk to coincide with the opening hours of the tower there as I’ve only ever seen it from the outside.
Favourite shopping area?
I only really shop around here with a very occasional trip to Princes Street /John Lewis for my wife’s Xmas and birthday presents, so I guess it’s the Kirkgate/Foot of Leith Walk area. There’s some half decent charity shops (the Cancer Research kids clothes/toys one on Great Junction Street has some good stuff) and butchers/fishmongers and then for nice beer I go to either Cornelius on Easter Road or Beets down here by the Shore.
Favourite piece of architecture?
The kids used to go to a little nursery inside Leith Academy school and I like how the design of that incorporates exotic plants all the way down the central corridor – the whole place is like a greenhouse – though maybe that makes it a sometimes stuffy building to work/study in. There’s loads of buildings I like in the city and the way little bits of older ones have been incorporated into newer buildings. Favourite piece overall is probably is the Chancelot Mill Building down in Leith/Newhaven. Would make for a great movie location.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city?
As a musician it’s the loss of music venues and closure of pubs or them losing their licence to put on live music. Luckily this has started to be seriously addressed by the council so they and the music/arts community can make Edinburgh every bit as vibrant outside of August festival time as it is inside.
I quite like the Mela as there’s lots going on and it’s down here in Leith (though was in Pilrig Park when I first went). Outside of that I do enjoy the good comedy at the Fringe that’s on at the Stand. Outside of August I’ve been to the horror movie festival Dead By Dawn a couple of times at the Filmhouse, which isn’t bad, and also I should put in a good word for Tradfest – they booked Southern Tenant Folk Union to play this year and had a really great programme of events.
Favourite local hero?
I’ll pick Alastair Sim – just thinking of him makes me want to watch ‘School For Scoundrels’ again.
Sell Edinburgh to a tourist in no more than ten words…