Open-air cinema screenings beneath Edinburgh Castle and farmers' markets suggested in £25m revamped Princes Street Gardens plans

Open-air cinema screenings beneath Edinburgh Castle are being suggested as part of a £25 million revamp of West Princes Street Gardens.

Friday, 8th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th November 2019, 2:08 pm

The al-fresco events have been proposed for a site beside the 19th century Ross Fountain in a future blueprint of the park.

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The proposals have emerged in plans put out for consultation for The Quaich Project ahead of a formal planning application being lodged early next year.

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The al-fresco events have been proposed for a site beside the 19th century Ross Fountain in a future blueprint of the park.

The project, backed by Hollywood star Alan Cumming and singer KT Tunstall, has been set up by Edinburgh City Council and the Ross Development Trust, which was set up by hotel developer Norman Springford to help overhaul the gardens.

Backers of The Quaich Project, which launched an international fundraising campaign with Cumming and Tunstall in New York last month, say they want to "reimagine West Princes Street Gardens as a space for all to celebrate and enjoy in new ways."

Farmers' Markets

The site, which is also earmarked for possible farmers’ markets in the new masterplan, is close to the home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Lothian Road.

The project has been backed by Hollywood star Alan Cumming and singer KT Tunstall,

A weekend of free open-air film screenings has been staged in St Andrew Square the weekend before the film festival begins in recent years. However a recent clampdown on the staging of events in the privately-owned garden has led to the axing of the city’s festive ice rink. Previous film screenings have been held in the Grassmarket and on The Mound.

Earlier this year, the Ross Development Trust suggested that major sporting events could be beamed into the gardens in future, while the producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Brigadier David Allfrey, has also suggested that highlights of the event could be shown.

The Quaich Project’s consultation document suggests “inspiration can be taken from other leading cities to create a family space that Scotland’s capital city can be proud of.”

It adds: “A hard-standing area will provide a suitable setting for the Ross Fountain as well as accommodating potential future uses such as outdoor film screenings or farmers markets.

“There will also be a flat lawn area, containing a café and toilets as well as a variety of new planters, where parents can enjoy a coffee and a snack whilst monitoring their children.”

David Ellis, managing director of the Ross Development Trust, who is leading The Quaich Project, said: “These are just suggestions that have been mentioned by groups that we have been speaking to. They are not our suggestions - they are suggestions that have been put to us. It will not be up to us to decide what events are held - that will be up to the council.”

Cliff Hague, chair of the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh's long-running heritage watchdog, said: "We welcome the ambition to improve what is currently the Blaes area in the west of the gardens. We believe that, with imaginative design and for a relatively low cost, a really interesting area for children's play and young people's activities can be created.

"We are less persuaded by the idea of a giant screen, which would conflict from the character of the garden as a landscape. We are also aware that a similar screen was tried and failed in the area in front of the Sheraton Hotel.

"We also feel that a farmers' market and similar merchandising would be less desirable than giving 100 per cent priority to children and young people in the design and facilities in this part of the garden.

"Our overarching concern remains to conserve West Princes St Gardens as gardens, avoiding a slide into them becoming a commercial zone, with expensive buildings and related developments that would require, and so legitimise, an ever increasing flow of income from commercialisation of what is public good land.

"We very much regret that the council has still not produced its business plan for West Princes St Gardens, since the designs must presume some management and income targets."