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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Smoke free gig banishes the blues
By Alex Robertson
BBC Scotland news website
Glasgow and West reporter

The Magic Blues Surfers
The Magic Blues Surfers lose their residency as a result of the ban
A ban on smoking in public places has come into effect in Scotland. But how has the ban been received?

With the sound of the blues drifting down Glasgow's Byres Road on a cold February night, I turned and vowed not to return until smoking was banned.

It had been a night which assaulted the senses for all the wrong reasons - none of them musical.

Under a low roof in a bar without windows some of Scotland's finest blues guitarists gathered on a Sunday to jam.

It was standing room only when I walked into a bar which proved a smoky blues club is no cliché.

The band - The Magic Blues Surfers - appeared through a haze of smoke captured in light beams.

I accept the ban and want to give up so it might help
Jim Ward
Founder of the Magic Blues Surfers

As a 12-bar blues rift filled the room, smoke stripped my throat and invaded my lungs.

I started coughing and smoke enveloped me, clinging to my clothing, hair and skin.

Mountainous ashtrays sat surrounded by chain smoking music fans.

Each breath was like inhaling a cigarette and after a few numbers I reached for the door and gulped fresh clear air.

I vowed not to return until Sunday 26 March.

On my return, evidence of the ban jumped out from every pub on the journey from the south side of Glasgow.

In the pouring rain smokers huddled in doorways.

Clean air

When I reached Studio One I saw two young women smoking outside.

Inside I witnessed what seemed an entirely different venue.

It smelled clean, overwhelmingly so, though the walls and ceiling were still nicotine-stained.

Disinfectant hung in the air and as the band set up and carried out their sound check, a few punters looked on.

It was cold and surprisingly the lack of smoke removed atmosphere.

On the sound check one band member told the crowd of a "momentous day".

It was most definitely much quieter but then it was pouring of rain outside.

When the band opened, I had a clear view and the air was filled with the sweet smell of lager and perfume.

It was about the music.

Smoker Jim Ward, 51, from Glasgow founded The Magic Blues Surfers.

He is resigned to the ban: "It is difficult. A ban was unfortunately inevitable.

"I'm going to have to get used to it though I smoke heavily when I'm working and having a beer.

"Outside, it's cold and wet. There's a lot of people not here tonight.

"I accept the ban and want to give up so it might help."

The band are moving from their Sunday night residence while the bar is refurbished to provide accommodation for smokers.

John Preston and Dougie Speirs
John Preston and Dougie Speirs both welcome the ban

In the audience, Dougie Speirs, 52, from Helensburgh, said he stopped smoking 12 months ago when he had a heart attack.

Dougie had smoked since he was 12.

He said: "The heart attack convinced me, it was dying for recognition.

"I loved smoking, absolutely loved it but mortality was the reason to give up.

"I'm all for a ban."

Non-smoker John Preston, 43, from Newton Mearns, said: "There is less atmosphere but I'd happily sacrifice that.

"I am 100% in favour of the ban, you can go home without stinking of smoke.

"The ban also encourages people who don't smoke to come along to nights like this."

A smoky blues club is not a cliché, in Scotland at least, where it is now history.



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