Edinburgh 2015: ‘Big Gold Dream’ review


All set to find an appreciative audience on BBC Four’s long-running Storyville strand, Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream (2015) – which premièred at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival – takes a pleasant and interesting trip down memory lane, specifically to the late 1970s where punk and post-punk where making a name for themselves in Edinburgh. Spearheaded by director Grant McPhee, who spent over ten years collecting reviews with different bands and figureheads from that particular time period, this is well-knitted together documentary that’s deserving of an audience who can reminisce about a time past.

In a top floor flat on Keir Street, Edinburgh in 1977, Bob Last – along with his partner Hilary Morrison – made the unprecedented decision to tap into the lively music scene on the East coast and form a record label: Fast Records. Their mantra was to do things differently to the mainstream, by focusing on the emerging punk scene. Releasing records took time and money, but the bands they took a chance on – Scars, The Mekons, Josef K and The Fire Engines – rewrote the rule book and initiated a craze that slowly swept the UK. The interviews award a personal feel to the scene, with the interviewees keen to tell their side of the story on how Edinburgh – not Glasgow or anywhere else – was a hotbed for talent.

McPhee intersperses the talking head interviews with darkened, hazy glimpses of Edinburgh itself in an attempt to recapture the air of the time. It works mostly, but the film is at its best when the living legends are left to tell their stories, which are often full of warmth, wit and longing. Transferring from the music business to the film business to become a producer, Last is the most interesting of the lot. Perhaps the most influential, his work – investing time and energy into the bands and music he felt passionate about rather than the ones he knew would make instant revenue – with Fast Records pushes these little known bands and figures out into the world and his off-kilter approach to the music industry left a lasting impression that many in the film look back on with a warm gratitude. Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream may never elevate above being most beneficial for punk and post-punk fans of that time, but it’s a welcome reminder and advocate of how Edinburgh has played such a vital role in the shaping of the music scene.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival programme, ticketing details and more can be viewed at edfilmfest.org.uk.

Jamie Neish | @EmptyScreens