Call for revamp of ‘bombed out’ Hogmanay stage

Plans were drawn up for a new-look Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens in 2004. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Plans were drawn up for a new-look Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens in 2004. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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ONE of Scotland’s best-known outdoor concert arenas has been compared to a “bombed-out shelter” by a leading pop and rock promoter, as he called for action to secure its future.

Mark Mackie, who has been behind some of the country’s biggest concerts in the past 20 years, has urged Edinburgh City Council to take action to restore the fortunes of the Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens.

He said it had “missed the ball” by failing to take action over the venue, the centrepiece for events at the end of the Edinburgh International Festival and during the capital’s Hogmanay celebrations.

Mackie, managing director of Regular Music, suggested the council should hand over responsibility for the project to an outside trust to raise funds if it could not afford to carry out a revamp itself, adding that the current condition of the venue, which was built in 1935, was “a real shame” for the city.

His company was part of a taskforce of architects, engineers and promoters asked to help draw up plans for a new-look bandstand after the cancellation of Hogmanay festivities in 2004 when part of a temporary arena in the gardens was wrecked by high winds.

Although designs for a replacement bandstand were revealed in 2006, the project was shelved by the council due to a lack of funding and commitments to back other projects, such as new spectator stands at Edinburgh Castle esplanade for the Tattoo and overhauls of the Assembly Rooms and the Usher Hall.

Mackie said: “The Ross Theatre has definitely seen better days. You only have to go down and have a walk around it.

“It’s in a fantastic location, in the shadow of the castle, right in the centre of Edinburgh, just off one of the most famous streets in the world. It now looks like a bombed-out shelter from an Eastern European country.”

He acknowledges that with funding cutbacks, money might be harder to come by, but pointed out that in Glasgow, the city’s Building Preservation Trust raised more than £2 million for the Kelvingrove Bandstand project.

A council spokeswoman said the organisation was in the early stages of planning an ­upgrade.

She added: “We recognise that the Ross Theatre is an asset to the city. Positioned in an enviable location in the heart of Princes Street Gardens against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, it is a fantastic historic venue but it does require updating.

“This was identified in a city cultural venues study of 2009.”