Ways forward for Edinburgh’s cultural development

- 10 April 2013

Cultural lights: Options discussed for Edinburgh’s cultural sector
Photo: © Shutterstock / Vichie81

Edinburgh’s cultural venues could receive a well-needed boast if any one of four hypothetical plans to develop an arts hub in Edinburgh were to go ahead.

For many years now the capital’s cultural venues have suffered from a lack of development ‒ the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) for instance is still without an appropriate home. By comparison, Glasgow is flourishing with the Royal Concert Hall currently being extended for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, likewise the Theatre Royal for Scottish Opera.

Indeed, somewhat ironically, it is to its rival in the west that Edinburgh is now looking for inspiration. The Cultural Charette, a report of a meeting at the end of last year between representatives of arts organisations in the public and private sector, has sited Glasgow’s Spiers Lock as a model of how post-industrial land and premises can be used to reinvigorate the arts. The canalside development houses Scottish Opera, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Of the four ‘vignettes’ mooted in the report, the biggest potential site is an area behind Edinburgh Castle which would involve the demolition of existing buildings. This could provide a multi-purpose 1,800 seat venue suitable for the SCO and possibly the Filmhouse. The Filmhouse could also potentially be situated at Fountain Quay, a 11.5 hectare site, part of which was the former Scottish and Newcastle brewery.

Edinburgh Council is also keen to transform the Potterrow area behind the National Museum of Scotland in conjunction with Edinburgh University and the site at Picardy Place near to the new tram network’s terminus. However as yet, there are no firm plans to take any of the four possibilities forward.

Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills has urged the city to draw up an urban masterplan for the capital’s venues. “You don’t have to do it all at once, but you have to have a kind of map to tell you where the city is going and when you need to start to make some proper provisions and decisions. Long-term, careful, bi-partisan planning is what is needed.”

  • Meanwhile, the £11.5 redevelopment of Glasgow’s Theatre Royal has received a further £700,000 in funding from the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to cover a budget shortfall. Despite the recession, tendering in key areas has remained competitive for the complex project expected to be completed on time by next May ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

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