Capital's £10m spending spree on cultural venues

Leith Theatre was reopened last year for the Hidden Door Festival nearly 30 years after its last event.
Leith Theatre was reopened last year for the Hidden Door Festival nearly 30 years after its last event.
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Three signature projects are set to share in a £10 million boost for Edinburgh’s cultural infrastructure.

The city council is to spend £5m securing the future on a long-awaited refurbishment of the King’s Theatre and a bid to reopen the old Leith Theatre three decades after it was closed down.

Duncan Hendry is leading efforts to overhaul the much-loved King's Theatre in Edinburgh.

Duncan Hendry is leading efforts to overhaul the much-loved King's Theatre in Edinburgh.

A further £5m has been ringfenced for a £45m project to create a new concert hall in the heart of the city’s New Town.

The Impact Centre, which will include a 1,000-capacity auditorium, has already had 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 pledged £4m towards a £25m overhaul of the Kings 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 the work to be carried out.

Radical improvements to its stage, auditorium, backstage areas, bars and cafes areas would be carried out under a blueprint aimed at preventing a sudden closure.

The £1 million 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.

It was almost destroyed by a bomb blast during the Second World War, which kept it closed until 1961 and it was closed by again in 1988 despite hosting events for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Donald Wilson, the council’s culture leader, said: “Despite the continued financial restraints placed on local authority budgets, I’m pleased our motion recognises the critically important role culture plays in our communities, to our economy and our global reputation as a cultural capital.

"The support we’ve outlined for the city’s cultural venues is outstanding and could see us provide more investment in this area than we have in over a decade.”

Jack Hunter, chair of the Leith theatre Trust, said “This is fantastic news. The funding will make a significant contribution towards our plans to provide a high quality multi-space venue supporting the arts, the community and major events.

“Leith Theatre is now recognised as potentially one of the top venues in Scotland.

“We also have the variety of spaces to support community events and celebrations.

“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.”

Duncan Hendry, chief executive of the Festival City Theatres Trust, which operates the King’s, said: “The backing from the council would not only underpin the project financially but help lever funding from other sources which will allow fundraising for the project to progress as planned.”

Sir Ewan Brown, chairman of Impact Scotland, the trust behind the new concert hall, said: “The tremendous support and encouragement to create Edinburgh’s first purpose-built music venue in over a century has been outstanding.”