Usher Hall takes centre stage as figures reach all-time high

The Usher Hall is bathed in light for the Harmonium Project event which launched this year's Festival. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Usher Hall is bathed in light for the Harmonium Project event which launched this year's Festival. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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IN the last year it has played host to artists as diverse as 
Little Mix and the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

And the Usher Hall appears to have struck a chord with the public as it has seen ticket sales of £2.7 million and total income soaring over the £4m barrier.

New figures have revealed a record year for the Lothian Road venue where there has been a 30 per cent increase in events since its refurbishment in 2010.

City culture leader Councillor Richard Lewis said it proved the Usher Hall was the “cultural centrepiece in the heart of Scotland”.

He said: “These latest figures prove that the mix of events being showcased are proving a hit with the public and are a result of consistent planning and hard work by the team who work so hard behind the scenes.

“With the whole city a hive of activity this month for the festivals, Edinburgh is a huge success story in terms of being a great place to visit and be entertained.

“This was never better illustrated than last week when around 20,000 people gathered in Festival Square to watch the amazing Harmonium Project light up the Usher Hall.

“Edinburgh is a great place to live as well as visit and the venue makes a significant contribution to the cultural life of the city throughout the year.

“The importance of music to Scotland’s capital cannot be understated and how lucky we are to have access to the wide ranging and varied programme that is presented and can be enjoyed by us all.”

The new figures to go before the council’s culture and sport committee next week show income for the year hit £4.2m with 227 events being held.

This compares with £3.65m and 200 events in the previous year.

Last year, it participated in the celebrations of the Commonwealth Games with the centrepiece event being a gala concert performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The hall’s own international music season moved to a Sunday afternoon which has proved to be a real success story, not only with increasing audiences but also allowing people to travel from further afield.

The venue welcomed orchestras such as the Moscow Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic and Camerata Salzburg along with stellar soloists and conductors. There was also growth in the number of rock and pop shows featuring artists such as Paolo Nutini, The Flaming Lips, Jake Bugg, Chris Rea, Train, Little Mix, Ben Howard and The Kaiser Chiefs.

And another area of growth has been in non-arts hires, hosting events such as graduation ceremonies, recordings and conferences.

The city council said the income success allows for investment in a range of education and community activities, with the Usher Hall continuing to present a series of concerts in association with Live Music Now, offering young, emerging artists the opportunity to perform on a major stage.

With half of the venue’s tickets being sold online in 2014-15 – up 40 per cent in the previous year – more than £20,000 is being invested in upgrading its website, with work expected to be completed in the autumn.

newsen@edinburghnews.com