Usher Hall celebrates centenary with record sales

The Usher Hal has enjoyed a bumper centenary year. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The Usher Hal has enjoyed a bumper centenary year. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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RECORD-breaking ticket sales have been notched up at a the Usher Hall as it celebrates its centenary year, the News can reveal.

The concert venue, which has played host to legendary acts such as The Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash, drew in its highest ticket sales in the past year with concert-goers splashing out nearly £3 million on shows.

Chart-topper Emeli Sandé joined Blondie, Texas and Nick Cave on the billing last year at the council-owned venue, in Lothian Road, which also raked in a record £3.65m in total income.

Another popular event was the Usher Hall’s 100th birthday on March 6 which was marked by a five-day ­celebration.

The diversity of the concert hall’s artistic programme is part of what is drawing in the crowds, according to general manager Karl Chapman.

He said: “The rock and pop concerts have definitely helped, as we have had more of those since we officially reopened in 2010. But our focus on classical music is still very strong. It just feels like a really nice mix.”

Leading international orchestras such as the Czech Philharmonic and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra also performed at the refurbished building which can seat 2200 people or accommodate 2900 people when standing.

Mr Chapman, who has been manager for 13 years, said: “It’s just a great venue.

“The lead singer of the Stereophonics, Kelly Jones, said to me when they appeared last year that it was one of the nicest shows they have ever done.”

The positive trend looks set to continue with indie favourites Kaiser Chiefs, and English songwriter Jake Bugg set to take to the stage over the coming months.

The demand for tickets to see comedy legend Billy Connolly perform the Capital leg of his High Horse tour was so high that two extra dates were added to the October run.

Councillor Richard Lewis, culture and sport convener, said: “These are exceptional results for the Usher Hall as it celebrates its centenary year.

“The packed programme for its 100th birthday has spanned Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony to the venue’s fastest selling concert of the year with Scotland’s very own Paulo Nutini, to comedy performances from Phill ­Jupitus and the Gilded Comedy Drama.”

Cllr Lewis added: “The results clearly demonstrate the council’s ongoing commitment to boosting income generation whilst maintaining access to the arts for everyone and I look forward to this trend continuing.”

Visitor numbers were not available as part of the Usher Hall Performance Report which will be presented to the city’s Culture and Sport Committee today .

The record-breaking takings at the concert venue come five years after it reopened following a major refurbishment.

A glass-covered extension was the centrepiece of a much delayed revamp costing more than £25m – £16m above the original price tag quoted in 2002.

The cost was originally put at no more than £9m in 2002, but it continued to escalate, despite council chiefs “pegging” the refit price at £19m in 2006. It contained a new cafe/bar, box office area, hospitality spaces and extended office ­accommodation.

newsen@edinburghnews.com