£250m plan to boost Edinburgh Venues

Posted by to The Blog on May 22nd

Officials from the City of Edinburgh Council are this week considering a raft of proposals, costing up to £250 million, which would aim to revitalise the Scottish capital’s cultural offering over the next 20 years.

The Ballroom in the Assembly Rooms on George Street will be out of action for this year’s festival. A key element of the plans is likely to be a 6,000-seat multi-use venue on Leith waterfront, while councillors will also consider the management and ownership structure of Edinburgh’s existing venues.

The council’s culture and leisure committee are discussing the Edinburgh City Cultural Venues Study, a 200-page document by specialist culture, leisure and sport consultants PMP. The study makes recommendations in light of an audit of 73 venues in the city with a capacity of more than 200 seats, one-to-one interviews with key cultural players and the council’s own strategy documents, including the Thundering Hooves report.

It makes a strong recommendation for a city-wide funding regime that recognises the need for a strong cultural infrastructure in Scotland’s capital and the home of the various Edinburgh festivals.

It warns that the cheapest – £25 million – option of maintaining the current buildings on an ad-hoc basis is not adequate for this purpose. An investment of some £100 million is needed to bring the venues up to a “competitive international standard”, while £200-£250 million “would place Edinburgh in the forefront of venue provision in the world”.

Council officials are recommending the committee examine the latter proposal and promote investigations with the private sector as to how funding might be achieved.

A further recommendation calls on councillors to look at the current management and ownership structure of Edinburgh’s existing venues. According to the report, “careful consideration should be given to the scale and management of the not for profit trust sector. There is management duplication and potential competition where combined working may have improved outcomes in terms of venue management, product and financial management across the city.”

The most high-profile recommendation to the committee is to “investigate partner opportunities with the private sector to deliver a venue which has a hybrid design and the technical ability to host audiences of up to 6,000”. Such a venue is likely to be situated in Leith and its hybrid design is to make it suitable for a variety of uses, from conferences to dance and rock events.

Meanwhile, the committee is to consider a report into the city’s Assembly Rooms on George Street and one of the fringe festival’s main venues. Dry rot in the ceiling of the Ballroom has proved more extensive than first thought and means that this major space within the venue will be out of action for this year’s festival. [via The Stage]

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