A PUBLICAN who operated the Tron Kirk as a venue for the last two Festivals today said he wanted to work with community groups to make the most of the historic building.
Councillors are expected to decide next week whether to renew the temporary lease which Kenny Waugh has had on the former church or to advertise it on the open market.
The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust will turn the Grade A-listed building in the High Street into a visitor centre – but work cannot start for two years.
The Old Town Community Council and two councillors say using the Tron as a venue has led to noise complaints and claim a better use could be found in the meantime. But Mr Waugh insisted there had only been one official noise complaint in the past two years and the problem was dealt with immediately.
He said the building had seen Free Fringe performances by more than 260 Scottish artists during the Festival and also hosted the Jazz Festival and Old Town Week. He said: “This was an amazingly popular venue. It was providing free entertainment at the Fringe when most people were charging £10 or £12 for shows.”
The building has no toilets, but there is an arrangement for customers to use the public toilets nearby. Mr Waugh said over the past two years he had put in a steel floor to allow the building to be used while protecting the excavations underneath and also installed electricity, heating and a sound system.
“We invested £100,000 and paid rent – £20,000 for the two years – to the council, which they used to repair the roof. Now we are offering £20,000 a year for the next two years – double the rent.” He said he hoped the council would agree to renew the lease, allowing him to operate it as a venue for five weeks in the summer and one at Hogmanay.
And he said he would work with others who want to use the building. He said: “I’ve said I’d like to have it for these six weeks of the year, but for 46 weeks out of 52, I’m happy for other people to use it.
“I’m keen for the local community to use it more – exhibitions, craft fairs, shows, any use they want – it would bring people in.”
Historian Stewart Wilson, who organises Old Town Week, said the Tron was an iconic space. “It needs to be open all year round. The bar element fits well in the Festival period, but the rest of the time there is less need for licensed premises.”
Steve Cardownie, the council’s festival and events champion, said: “It would be a pity if the Tron was lost as a venue. It has been a huge success.”