Edinburgh’s cultural venues set for £10m budget windfall

�5m has been set aside to create a new concert hall behind the former RBS head office at St Andrew Square, Picture: Ian Rutherford
�5m has been set aside to create a new concert hall behind the former RBS head office at St Andrew Square, Picture: Ian Rutherford
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more funds would be pumped into Edinburgh’s cultural venues than have been spent in over a decade under a key pillar of the city council’s proposed budget.

The authority is set to spend £5 million on securing the refurbishment for the King’s Theatre while hoping to boost the appeal to reopen the Leith Theatre three decades after it closed down.

A £50,000 pot of cash has also been made available to develop a programme of local community cultural events throughout the year.

This includes helping established events such as Holi One Colour Festival, Diwali Festival and local fayres in the hope of celebrating all the cultures of the city’s residents.

Donald Wilson, the council’s culture leader, said: “The support we have outlined for the city’s cultural venues this year is outstanding and could see us provide more investment in this area than we have in over a decade. “We are absolutely committed to supporting the 11 major festivals in the city, but there’s also a group of community or citizen orientated events largely done by volunteers which are either unfunded or very poorly funded.

“We’re looking to balance this out by looking at these events and encouraging them.

“Some emphasis of this cash is largely directed at the residents primarily, but visitors usually enjoy it too.”

A further £5m has been ring fenced for a £45m project to create a new concert hall behind the historic RBS head office on St Andrew Square. The Impact Centre, which will include a 1,000-capacity auditorium, has already attracted pledges of £10m each from the Scottish and UK governments.

The city council, which has revealed spending plans ahead of a budget meeting next week, has committed £4m towards a £25m overhaul of the King’s Theatre, which will secure its future for another 50 years.

The 112-year-old venue is expected to close for up to 18 months to allow vital improvements to its stage, auditorium, backstage areas, bars and cafe areas.

The £1m earmarked for the Leith Theatre Trust is expected to kick start efforts to secure the permanent reopening of the building, which was falling into disrepair before it was brought back to life for the festival Hidden Door last year.

Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle, Rod Stewart, The Proclaimers, Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner and Garbage singer Shirley Manson have all thrown their weight behind a campaign to open the building, which dates back to 1932.

Cllr Wilson added: “This is a perfect venue as a live music venue, which the city needs more of.

“I’m in no doubt people will be delighted we’re looking to bring the Leith Theatre back to its former glory.

“We lack a live music venue of that particular specialism and size.

“There is obviously a need for other investment as it has deteriorated into a sorry state of disrepair and that came as a great sadness to the people.”

Jack Hunter, chair of the Leith theatre Trust, said “The funding from the council will kick start our drive towards assembling the full funding package required to deliver this vision of a vibrant complex, hosting cultural, entertainment, leisure, civic and educational events.”

The council has vowed to open up museums and galleries for seven days a week throughout the year following a pilot scheme involving reduced opening hours during the off-peak season, which resulted in a heavy fall in footfall.

Meanwhile, Cllr Wilson confirmed the council was hoping to bring international sporting events to the Capital, while he also praised the renovation project for the new Meadowbank stadium, which is due to be operational by Easter 2020.

He said: “The redevelopment of Meadowbank will be massive and be a huge step forward. We’re looking at bringing a world orienteering event to the city in 2019, so we are working on major events as well. A lot can be done to develop the sporting scene in Edinburgh and Meadowbank is crucial to that.”