Edinburgh's King's Theatre: MSP calls on Scottish Secretary to intervene to save landmark venue
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Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber has called on Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to intervene directly to save Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre after a council bid for cash from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund was rejected.
A major redevelopment of the King’s was part of a £22 million city-wide cultural regeneration bid, which also included the Leith Theatre, Usher Hall, Queen’s Hall, WHALE arts centre and Macmillan hub in North Edinburgh. But Ms Webber criticised the bid as “incompetent” and lacking in detail and said she hoped the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) could step now in and support the King’s directly.
In a letter to Mr Jack, she said: “Council colleagues warned this bid for the Levelling Up Fund was unfocussed. I am determined to ensure the future of The King's should not be jeopardised by an incompetent application from senior council officials. Towards the end of last week and over the weekend my inbox has been inundated with rightly concerned residents from Edinburgh and beyond that are concerned for the future of the King’s Theatre.”
The Tollcross venue closed in August for work to start, but Fiona Gibson, chief executive of Capital Theatres, which runs the 117-year-old building, said last week that the King’s was in the "last chance saloon" and fighting for survival after the cost of the refurbishment project, which was delayed by the Covid pandemic, soared above its previous £25.7m budget. Capital Theatres has pleaded with the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council to plug the £8.9m funding gap to allow a long-awaited revamp to go ahead. Work cannot start until the funding gap is closed.
Ms Webber told Mr Jack in her letter: “You will undoubtedly appreciate the importance of the King’s Theatre and vital cultural role it plays here in the city, and so it is hoped that the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport could intervene and support The King’s directly.”
Councillor Val Walker, convener of the city’s culture and communities committee, said: “The Levelling Up funding bid process called for bids that would make transformational cultural infrastructure changes for communities. For Edinburgh the bid proposed improvements for a number of projects across the city. The guidelines from the UK Government were quite clear that these were not to be bids for individual projects. This means going into more specific details about one project over another would not have been appropriate. We’re of course extremely disappointed that our vision for Edinburgh wasn’t recognised in this round of funding and we’re now exploring any opportunities open to help individual projects including the future of the King’s Theatre.”