Kevin Buckle: Queen’s Hall is in the box seat for venue hopes

There are plans to make the Queen's Hall more welcoming from the outside. Picture: Neil Hanna
There are plans to make the Queen's Hall more welcoming from the outside. Picture: Neil Hanna
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It is sometimes forgotten amongst all the Leith Theatre and IMPACT Centre publicity that Edinburgh has a similar sized venue already fully operational, if in need of some TLC.

The Queen’s Hall has far more substantial refurbishment plans but for now folk can enjoy the new bar that has been finished just in time for the Festival.

It will be some time before all three venues are up and running and it will be interesting to see how gigs are divided up once they are but the Queen’s Hall should be in the driving seat as the established venue so it is great to see things finally starting to move forward under the relatively new chief executive Evan Henderson.

There is no reason once all the work is done that the Queen’s Hall can’t run as a successful cafe and bar during the day as well as a venue at night and plans to make the building more welcoming from the outside are working towards that.

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Let’s hope now that after the good news reported in my column a couple of weeks ago that the NEKO Trust intends to open a series of small venues including one in Edinburgh that there may be more good news on the small venues side of things to follow.

This is something Edinburgh Council really needs to address and my only concern over the recent news is that they support the initiative but then think their job is done.

Glen Rowe, who is behind the NEKO Trust, was Muse’s tour manager for many years and his contacts will be invaluable. He may even be able to help attract name bands to larger venues but his welcome initiative should only be the start of the council looking at the bigger picture.

Where’s the plan for business?

With House of Fraser on the brink of collapse and Aulds the bakers putting all its retail outlets into liquidation it couldn’t be any clearer that there has to be a major rethink from councils as to how they treat retail businesses.

Businesses starting up are regularly advised to become a community business or social enterprise and to be honest others cynically look at this option but if things continue as they are it will only be businesses avoiding overheads and obtaining grants that survive.

Clearly the large established retail businesses that are suffering may just have had their day but other businesses thought to be solid and able to cope with the competition of online sales either by the nature of their business or because of their own online presence are now finding themselves in trouble and to say that there is nothing to be done over people’s buying preferences is a very lazy response.

Small businesses all over the UK feel that councils are responding far too slowly and worryingly Edinburgh doesn’t seem to have a plan at all.