Fringe venues to be lost in university expansion

Pleasance Dome is one of the venues set to disappear. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Pleasance Dome is one of the venues set to disappear. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Two of the most high-profile venues at the Fringe are set to go under Edinburgh University’s expansion plans.

It has emerged that the Pleasance Dome complex and the BBC’s pop-up base at 
Potterrow will have to make way for a new wave of building works beside the university’s existing.

Julian Clary is due to perform at the BBC base this month. Picture: Getty

Julian Clary is due to perform at the BBC base this month. Picture: Getty

The Pleasance, which has used the student association complex at Potterrow for the last five years, runs five venues there, while the BBC has created its own studio complex next door every year since 2011.

The BBC is already seeking an alternative base for the Festival after being told that its current site will be unavailable next year. The corporation has brought many of its biggest shows – including The One Show, Front Row, Just a Minute and Dead Ringers – north of the Border since it began setting up camp at 
Potterrow after previously using the EICC.

The Pleasance Dome could have just two years left before being demolished under plans for a huge redevelopment of the area by the university. However, it is thought a new performing arts centre could be built in the Potterrow area as part of wider plans for a new cultural hub close to the National Museum of Scotland and Festival Theatre.

The Underbelly’s upside-down cow venue has already been forced to relocate from Bristo Square due to ongoing works, while the McEwan Hall is out of commission until 2017 due to a multi-million pound refurbishment.

The investment that the university has put into its buildings has made a huge difference to us

Anthony Alderson

Festival-goers have to take a lengthy detour to access Gilded Balloon’s base and George Square. A major redevelopment of the Pleasance courtyard complex is also due to begin in the autumn and continue for almost two years, although this is being programmed by the university to avoid disrupting the Fringe.

Anthony Alderson, artistic director of the Pleasance, said that he had been kept fully up to date by the university on its plans.

He added: “From our point of view, although there are these speed bumps when work is ongoing, the investment that the university has put into its buildings has made a huge difference to us.

“It was difficult for us when there was work going on at the back of the Pleasance courtyard, but the result of that is we now have a really significant 250-seater theatre, one of our best spaces.

“We’ve been told work to remove the existing building is likely to start within the next four years, but we’ve also been told there should be space for us to go into. We’ve worked in partnership with them now for 30-odd years, after all. Yes, it is going to be disruptive, but as long as we work together and continue to communicate it should be a fantastic opportunity.”

A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said: “We are aware of this issue. The BBC is strongly committed to its coverage of the Edinburgh Festival and we are currently looking at alternatives for next year.”

No-one from the university was available to comment.

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk