Ian steals Marche on Italian theatres

Ian Arnott from Gifford spent seven years on his book
Ian Arnott from Gifford spent seven years on his book
Have your say

A RETIRED architect has published his first book – an account of how an isolated part of Italy became one of the biggest hot spots for theatres in the world.

Ian Arnott, from Gifford, penned The Hidden Theatres of the Marche after being asked to research the subject by the Royal Scottish Academy.

The end result has been seven years in the making and was published last month.

The historical work tells the story of the Marche – a small Italian region which grew to have 113 functioning theatres during the 18th century despite having a population of less than a million people.

Mr Arnott said: “It started in 2006 and it was a music holiday that we took to the Marche.

“It was half a dozen private concerts and recitals and it was set in some of these restored theatres that I’d never heard of. As far as I could gather, nobody else had either.

“It’s a very little-known area, even to Italians, and they don’t go there because it’s the wrong side of the Apennine Mountains. It’s tiny – it’s only 100 miles by 50.

“I got interested in the buildings and then I discovered that these half dozen were only the tip of the iceberg. It had more theatres than any other area of Italy in terms of concentration.

“I just became curious as to why this came about. It was never a terribly poor area, but it was certainly never one of the prosperous areas of Italy. Why did they want so many theatres and how did they procure them?

“The book, I think, sets out to provide some answers to these questions and, of course, focuses on the buildings themselves; many of them were so beautiful. As an architect, they interested me.”

Mr Arnott would return to the Marche, spending about two-and-a-half weeks there researching for the book and visiting about 35 theatres in the process.

Now 84, the retiree was born in May 1928. He studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art and went on to take a diploma in town planning in the Capital.

After finishing his studies, Mr Arnott joined Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall in the late 1950s before switching in 1961 to Eric Hall & Partner, where he was the senior architect responsible for the Haddington Town Centre renewal.

Arnott joined William Campbell in partnership as Campbell & Arnott in 1962. One of their earliest projects was Mr Arnott’s own house at Gifford, which went on to win a Civic Trust Award.

The office became a social focus for the Edinburgh Architectural Association. Mr Arnott served on the EAA council and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

One of his final projects was building the award-winning 
£28 million Saltire Court that restored Castle Terrace and formed a new square fronting the Usher Hall.