The £25 million Quaich Project will complete a new open air concert arena on the site of The Ross Theatre and as well as hosting live concerts it has been suggested that other events could be shown on a big screen at the new venue. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Wimbledon, the Six Nations and the Olympics have all been touted as possible candidates and no doubt other suggestions will be forthcoming.
It has to be borne in mind, however, that the public currently enjoys the peace and quiet that the Gardens have to offer, providing space in which to relax and unwind away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Many years ago when I was the convener of the city council’s recreation committee which had parks and greenspaces within its remit we conducted a survey of pedestrians on Princes Street and users of the Gardens. When asked if they would like to see West Princes Street Gardens used for more events respondents replied that a fine balance would have to be struck if the Gardens were to retain their tranquil nature, with many stating that they used the gardens as a break from the city centre.
I have little doubt that if such a survey was carried out now the answer would be the same, so if these latest ideas are taken forward a well-thought-out blueprint will be required to ensure that the interests of all Gardens users are safeguarded. And while filmed events would be welcome, they must not be allowed to dominate the landscape to such an extent that the Gardens simply become an extension of city life, rather than an escape from it.