King's Theatre refurbishment gets £5m loan boost from city

A multi-million pound campaign to refurbish one of Edinburgh's best-loved theatres has been given a £5 million funding boost after councillors agreed to support it.

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 1:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 1:42 pm
King's Theatre Restoration Tollcross

The City of Edinburgh Council has agreed to loan £5m of extra funding towards the refurbishment of the King’s Theatre.

Capital Theatres is giving the building a facelift and wants to provide a range of new community and educational activities.

The project is expected to cost £25m and the city council agreed £4m of funding from its Capital Investment Programme in this year’s budget.

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But the extra cash will only be released to Capital Theatres if enough funding is raised to meet the overall costs of the project. The city council has owned the King’s Theatre building, which was built in 1906, since 1969.

Speaking at the council’s finance and resources committee, Cllr Graham Hutchison raised concerns about the council being forced to act as a guarantor if the theatre doesn’t raise enough money to pay back the loan.

He said: “We have competing priorities and one of the things that always comes under the spotlight is spend on culture when it comes to budgetary 
decisions. We all took a line in the budget process.

“Here we are four months down the line where they are coming back and asking for more money.

“While I’m not opposed to that in principle, what guarantees do we have that the King’s Theatre is exploring other funding streams so that we are not always the go-to location for funding?

“What are their spending plans in the future and if they don’t raise the money that we’re talking about to effectively pay us back here, are we acting as a guarantor on this loan?”

Council officers told the committee that Capital Theatres was “exploring all opportunities” for funding and they see this as a “fall back or backstop option”.

Conservative Cllr Andrew Johnston said: “Could this not have been anticipated by the King’s and us when we were going through our budget process – rather than them having to come back at this stage to ask for additional funding?”

Councillors agreed for additional funding to be loaned to Capital Theatres.

Radical improvements to its stage, auditorium, backstage areas, bars and cafes areas are proposed for the revamp.

Key priorities also include improving access for disabled people, replacing the outdated “raked stage” and providing new workshop space for school and students. The King’s has played host to Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen.