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Discussion Starter #1
Queen’s Hall chief attacks quango criticism

The Scotsman - 19th September, 2013

The future of one of Edinburgh’s leading concert venues has been thrown into doubt by Scotland’s national arts quango.

The Queen’s Hall is facing an uncertain future after being criticised in a major report ordered by Creative Scotland.

Managers of the popular venue, which has been staging shows since 1979, have been left furious after the quango said the listed building was unsuitable and inflexible for many major events, effectively ruling out support for a planned revamp.

The report has instead recommended the city pursue a brand new medium-sized venue, warning that Edinburgh is lagging behind Glasgow when it comes to venues suitable for “high-quality” music. The most likely site would involve an extension of the existing culture quarter near the Usher Hall, Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres.

Queen’s Hall chief executive Adrian Harris said the findings about the venue were “confusing”, “contradictory” and “inaccurate”, and were being led by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), which wants a new flagship venue built for the organisation in the city centre.

The blow has emerged almost a year after the Queen’s Hall’s long-delayed plans for an £8.5 million refurbishment were turned down for funding by Creative Scotland. At the time, officials insisted the venue would be able to re-apply in the next funding round.

But the long-awaited review of the music sector said the venue was “insufficiently flexible and not well suited for many such events, particularly because as a listed building any major alterations are simply not possible”.

It added: “This is especially true for its use by the SCO, who use it regularly because there is no suitable alternative, and who have been exploring ideas for an alternative venue. We suggest a specific review of the mid-scale venue provision in Edinburgh – with Creative Scotland in partnership with the City of Edinburgh and others – which should aspire to explore possible development plans over the longer term.”

The report, based on research produced by an expert steering group, which several senior Creative Scotland officials sat on, said that while the priority around the country should be on upgrading existing facilities, there was a “particular issue around a mid-scale venue for Edinburgh”.

Mr Harris pointed out that the same study had singled out the venue for praise because of the wide range of music it stages throughout the year.

He added: “To say it is impossible to refurbish the building is simply inaccurate and contradicts what we have been told by the council and Historic Scotland. We are frustrated this is being driven by the requirements of the orchestra.”

Roy McEwan, chief executive of the SCO, said: “There are a lot of issues for us with the Queen’s Hall, including the capacity, the large number of restricted-view seats and the fact the stage is often not big enough for a large orchestra.”

Richard Lewis, the city council’s culture leader, said: The Queen’s Hall is an important contributor to Edinburgh’s cultural landscape and promotes a wide range of styles of music. It is a highly valued venue in Edinburgh and there is widespread recognition that it is in need of refurbishment.

“We are also aware of the SCO’s long-held ambition to secure a purpose built facility. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Creative Scotland on the feasibility of a mid-scale music venue in the Capital.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “We are in continuing dialogue with the city council, the Queen’s Hall and music organisations to review mid-scale venue provision in Edinburgh.”

smalltown boy
3,433 Posts
I assume that the Richard Murphy scheme for the Queen's Hall is pining for the fjords?

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Work begins on Fort Kinnaird multiplex

Urban Realm - 23rd October, 2013

Work has begun on a £24m extension to the Fort Kinnaird retail and leisure park, introducing a seven screen Odeon cinema, seven restaurants, two cafes and a children’s play area.

Designed by 3DReid on behalf of centre owners British Land the expansion occupies the site of a former cinema and bowling alley which was cleared back in 2008.

Buildings will be clad in metallic composite panels and Prodema timber effect cladding with new paving and planting incorporated to soften impact.

Fort Kinnaird is already Edinburgh’s largest retail park, sparking fears that it could further undermine the city centre.

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Brother of Susan Boyle opens new music venue in Edinburgh

STV News - 1st November, 2013

The brother of Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle is frantically making last-minute preparations before opening his new music venue in Edinburgh.

Gerry Boyle, 59, from Musselburgh, has pledged to transform the city's derelict Odeon cinema into the plush Instant Arena.

On Friday, just hours before the launch party, he asked critics not to judge the "unfinished product" too harshly.

Despite months of effort to return the building to its former glory, workers were still ripping up carpets a day before the opening.

Mr Boyle said: "Our plan is to get the building up and running, continually open up the different parts and get all the gremlins out of the system.

"Our grand plan is to have regular variety shows and concerts in the new year.

"We've had contact with some of the biggest stars in the world, but I won't reveal too much just now. We want to get the building operational and then approach performers."

The Instant Arena's opening had been delayed by three months and will be limited to a new foyer bar, the grand hall and the 'Scruples' champagne bar, while the eye-catching 600-seat auditorium remains shut.

Gerry acknowledged the venue was far from perfect, but said he wanted to reopen the doors of the A-listed 1930's building and "get people believing" in it again.

He said: "When we took on the building I told people that we didn't have a magic wand and that we wouldn't raid Susan's bank account.

"We've a long way to go. It's a work in progress, but considering what it was like, it's a transformation.

"We've been criticised for being ambitious, but we've had a plan, which is a gradual rejuvenation of the building and bringing in entertainment.

"It's great news, an early Christmas present. Edinburgh has its building back."

The venue will be open daily from 8am to midnight, seven days a week and plans to hold themed nights such as country, jazz, rock and Motown are in the pipeline for early next year.

Unfortunately singing sensation Subo was not expected to attend the grand opening of her brother's club.

Gerry said: "Susan has had her dream come true and now we are trying to make it happen for everyone else. Susan is away doing other things right now. She will go her way and we will go ours."
Official Site

1,594 Posts
Wow, well I really hope this works. I love that building, there's nothing like it. I had no idea that this was happening!!!

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Picture House to be closed as a music venue

Edinburgh Evening News - 12th December, 2013

One of the most popular music venues in the Capital will close its doors for the final time on Hogmany after its owners announced it is to be sold off.

The Edinburgh Picture House will shut forever after being bought by an as-yet unnamed firm who will not re-open the building as a concert venue.

All concerts falling after December 31 will be cancelled.

The sale is expected to be completed on January 6 when the venue will close for refurbishment.

The Picture House was bought by MAMA and Company in March 2008 from Luminar Liquid Limited and is due to host Tenacious D and The View before it closes in two weeks.

A spokeswoman for MAMA and company said: “The sale is due to complete on 6 January and we understand that the new owners will close for refurbishment on that date and are not expected to re-open as a music venue.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the public, the venue staff, and all the great artists and promoters who have graced the stage over the last five years for their support.”

1,307 Posts
Really disappointing news about the Picture House. It's a really nice venue and about the only mid-size Edinburgh gig venue I can think of. There's nothing else really between the sizes of the Liquid Room and the Corn Exchange. You'd have thought it perfectly fitted a gap in the Edinburgh music scene.

I had assumed that it was successful enough - there's usually plenty of gigs on and there's often queues snaking up Lothian Road before doors open.

694 Posts
Unbelievable how Edinburgh boasts the world's largest arts festival every year, is the capital and most prosperous city yet doesn't have a medium-large concert venue in the city center.

1,307 Posts
Unbelievable how Edinburgh boasts the world's largest arts festival every year, is the capital and most prosperous city yet doesn't have a medium-large concert venue in the city center.
Well the Usher Hall has more rock gigs than it used to and since they made the stalls seating removable during the renovation a few years ago it really works for gigs. But their main focus is classical concerts.

The Playhouse used to be a regular stop for pretty big bands back in the day but decided to concentrate on musical theatre years ago so just doesn't seem to do gigs at all anymore.

The Queens Hall is smaller (capacity 900) but again has more classical concerts than anything else.

I'm genuinely surprised at the closure of the Picture House, it seemed to be successful enough. As one of the comments under that Evening News article says, "Disaster for Edinburgh; big win for Scotrail."

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Picture House hits gig cred

The Scotsman - 16th December, 2013

Brian Ferguson writes: I have a confession to make. In the five years or so that the Picture House in Edinburgh has been open, I have only darkened its doors on two occasions.

Both were during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Neither left me hankering for a return visit. I cannot pretend I was fond of the venue. It lacked the intimacy of the Queen’s Hall, my long-time favourite, and could not match the acoustics and visual splendour of the Usher Hall, the undisputed jewel in the city’s cultural crown.

However, anyone with an interest in the live music scene in the city realises what a blow its impending closure is. The fact that by the time of writing almost 10,000 people have signed a petition protesting against this prospect says it all.

There has been plenty of grim commentary online since the news of its sell-off emerged last week. Not for the first time in the last decade, the obituaries are being penned for the city’s gigging credentials.

There is little doubt that revival of the former “Caley Palais” filled a major gap in the capital’s cultural infrastructure when it opened. It was a rare case of a famous venue from the city’s past – where the likes of David Bowie, AC/DC, The Smiths, Orange Juice and REM all played – coming back to life when the Picture House opened.

It had been a particularly grim few years, with the demise of the much-loved Venue behind Waverley Station, the forced relocation of the nearby Bongo Club to the outskirts of the city centre and the devastating impact of the Cowgate fire.

At last Edinburgh was able to boast a medium-sized venue for relatively big-name bands that were either unsuited to, or incapable of filling, the Usher Hall or the out-of-town Corn Exchange.

The Picture House’s value to the capital’s scene grew significantly after another Old Town blaze led to a lengthy closure of the Liquid Rooms.

And its future seemed secure early in 2009 when its owners, the MAMA Group, agreed a deal with music industry giants HMV to help run its venues.

Fast forward less than four years and by late last year HMV had chosen to dispose of the Picture House, along with most of its live music assets, in a deal done shortly before the company collapsed. However it appears that the venue was simply not profitable enough for the company, although as MAMA has not explained exactly why the venue has been sold off, everyone is being left to speculate.

As has become the norm with the spate of closures over the years, accusing fingers are being pointed in the direction of Edinburgh City Council for failing to protect and nurture the live music scene.

Is the criticism justified? In this specific case, probably not. The council approved the building’s use for live concerts. And it is unable to intervene in commercial deals between licensed trade operators.

The venue’s closure is as much down to competition from similar sized venues in Glasgow that anything to do with a potential audience in Edinburgh.

That is not to say the city should wash its hands of the situation. It has shamefully tinkered around with the idea of a major new concert venue for years – to no effect whatsoever.

While Dundee and Glasgow have pressed ahead with major cultural projects on their waterfronts, Edinburgh has turned its back on the entire Leith Docks area, which hosted the MTV Europe Music Awards a decade ago but little in the way of major events since.

Of course, what makes the situation on Lothian Road all the more embarrassing is the Picture House was one of the key players in the area’s curiously-underplayed “culture quarter”. Little of note has happened since the refurbishment of the Usher Hall was completed almost four years ago.

The big new idea, discussed at a cultural summit just over a year ago, of a multi-arts venue which would accommodate the needs of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and also become home to both the Filmhouse and the Traverse, still seems light years away.

The recent study for Creative Scotland on the nation’s music sector outlined specific concerns about the lack of a medium-sized venue in Edinburgh and recommended a new study of viable options.

But unless there is a serious will, a clear vision, plenty of ambition and pledges of substantial funding, Edinburgh is likely to be a very poor musical relation to Glasgow for many years to come.

3,646 Posts
This is coming up on my Facebook now, more than a few Edinburger pals are pissed off!

And I see over 10,000 folk have signed the petition!

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Susan Boyle’s brother shuts venue at former Odeon

Edinburgh Evening News - 21st December, 2013

Singing sensation Susan Boyle’s brother has closed a planned entertainment complex that was set to revitalise an iconic cinema, the Evening News can reveal.

The doors to the former Odeon in Clerk Street have been locked while a bitter spat is played out between the star’s brother, Gerry, who wanted to transform the site into a Las Vegas-style theatre, and his former business partners.

Outraged contractors claim they are considering legal action after allegedly being left thousands of pounds out of pocket for unpaid work they claim they carried out.

Disgruntled Gerry has counter-claimed their gripes, saying he fully intends to reopen with a new business partner after the Christmas holidays because he was not happy with the way they were running the theatre, which part reopened last month.

The row has been seized upon by campaigners who claim the 1930s building deserves a future.

One told the Evening News: “I’d been in once or twice to find the place empty – there was a general air of disappointment.”

The I Dreamed a Dream star’s brother had promised to deliver a high-class cabaret venue in reopening the A-listed building.

But Kirkintilloch-based Braveheart Catering, which signed up to the project, is taking legal advice amid allegations it has been left about £100,000 out of pocket.

The company is understood to have billed the entrepreneur for £55,000 for building improvement costs, which included paintwork, new carpets, wiring and plumbing.

Managing director Stephen Gauld has alleged Mr Boyle shut the venue after admitting he did not have the money “to pay for electricity bills”.

He said: “We’ve been speaking to the lawyers regarding this and they’re formulating what’s to be done.

“Everything that’s been done to the building has been us. Gerry asked us to do it and said to keep a tab of all the costs. He said ‘let me know when you need money’.

“When we asked him for money, he told us he had none. You could have knocked me over with a feather – I could not believe it.”

Mr Gauld said his hospitality business would survive, but added: “It’s a lot of money to us. We’re not a multinational conglomerate, we’re normal working people.”

Mr Boyle has denied the claims, saying he personally spent about £50,000 on upgrades. Since it opened at the start of last month he said he had not seen a penny of bar takings and claimed Braveheart Catering was in breach of its contract, adding: “Despite having a licence to operate until January 2 paid for by us, they’re not really operating the place as we intended. They were using it as a cafe and then closing it at five o’clock and going home. We’re getting all the feedback from the public saying ‘this is terrible’.”

Mr Boyle, who signed a lease from owner Duddingston House Properties (DHP) to run the old cinema, said it would reopen in late January with a different business partner.

A spokesman for DHP said it was not appropriate for the company to comment on a commercial dispute.

Last month’s reopening of the 1930s landmark was limited to a new foyer bar and the grand hall. Work on the rest of the building was to follow.

However, Save the Odeon campaigner Tom Pate said: “To put some paint on the foyer and a jazz band at one end, that’s not what the building’s for.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council confirmed it had been informed plans are afoot to reopen.

She said: “The occupier has advised us that the venue has closed temporarily and will reopen again in early 2014.”

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Cameo cinema celebrates 100th birthday

Edinburgh Evening News - 7th January, 2014

Lights, cameras and, most importantly, breathtaking action in the form of flickering black-and-white images that would turn a tiny corner of Edinburgh into another world . . .

When the doors opened to a picture house in Home Street 100 years ago tomorrow, the curtain went up on a world of romance and high drama, one in which film fans could be scared out of their seats, quietly weep or laugh uproariously as the magic of moving pictures took them to places they could barely have dreamed of.

Then known as the King’s, it would be reborn as the Cameo. And apart from that name change and a few vital modern touches – including today’s three dimensional screen showing images which no doubt would have left the pre-First World War audiences bewildered – not much has really changed since those early film fans settled down beneath the ornate plaster ceiling for a couple of hours
of escapism.

The Tollcross cinema, one of the oldest picture houses still operating in Scotland, will celebrate its centenary tomorrow when invited guests will gather to watch a special preview screening of Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen brothers’ film about a New York folk singer starring, among others, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake.

The birthday party film casts a backward glance to the folk music movement of the early Sixties. Yet back in the real world, by that same Swingin’ Sixties era the Tollcross picture house had already well and truly staked her place in the hearts of city film-goers for half a century.

Only a short blip in the Eighties, when modern technology in the form of home videos plunged many cinemas into darkness, and a post-war spell in the Forties have interrupted screenings.

Among the Cameo’s most avid fans is Genni Poole, whose father, Jim, took over the King’s in 1947, and reopened it as the Cameo. He stressed its arthouse credentials in an advert which appeared in the Scotsman in March 1949, announcing it as “A cinema for the discerning” showing “week by week carefully chosen films of artistic merit screened in an atmosphere that sets a new standard in cinema
decoration and comfort”.

It’s a pledge which, according to Genni – who grew up playing in the empty cinema while her dad organised behind-the-scenes business – is just as relevant today.

“The Cameo is not just a box where people go and watch a movie and get all the special effects but could be sitting in any place in the country,” she says.

“The Cameo is actually a cinema with a beating heart. It’s an experience to go and watch the film in the Cameo.

“In the Cameo you know you are in a historic building and in a special, unique place. I look on her as a very grand old lady.”

Moving pictures were first screened at the venue on January 8, 1914, when film-goers arrived to find 673 seats, a revolutionary mirrored screen – the first of its kind in the country – and a live orchestra in place to provide the musical accompaniment to the silent films.

Many would already have 
witnessed the birth of moving pictures brought to them by Genni’s grandfather, John Poole, who with his family ran dioramas – mobile theatres showing often historically themed pictures with images which changed depending on how they were lit.

By the time her father took over the then King’s in 1947, the Poole family was running the Roxy in Gorgie, the Synod Hall and other cinemas across the country.

Running the cinema was a dream conceived by Jim in the maelstrom of the Middle East where he served during the Second World War with a remit as chief entertainment officer for the troops.

“He put on film shows and had to source the movies from wherever he could,” Genni explains. “He showed many foreign films, many of which had not just one lot of subtitles but many subtitles in different languages. He gained a huge amount of experience and love for foreign films and he brought that back to Edinburgh.”

He returned to find the King’s in disrepair as the impact of war and rationing took its toll on leisurely follies like the cinema – and an
opportunity to share his love of foreign and art movies.

Once in charge he opted not to rip out her ornate interior for something more practical and instead spent the next two years battling to restore the remarkable interior to glory.

“My father would tell stories about how the water dripped through the roof and they had to place jam jars at strategic places,” says Genni with a laugh.

“And when they first moved in there were lots of strange noises which turned out to be rats. There were structural problems too, but he upgraded everything and ended up with something to be proud of.”

Restoring the picture house was just part of Jim Poole’s dream – the other was to introduce the films he loved to a post-war audience who might prefer glossy escapism and sugar-coated romance to the gritty and challenging world of art movies.

“My grandfather was quite doubting,” adds Genni. “He thought that was risky programming but said if he wanted to do it, then go ahead but you’re crazy.”

It turned out to be a masterstroke, for the revamped Cameo brought fascinated audiences a taste of a certain style of film – and glamour – they’d otherwise probably never see.

For its opening night the new owner had secured the right to premiere a brand new French subtitled movie, La Symphonie Pastorale. It told the story of forbidden love of a pastor for a young blind girl – weeks before it would go to Cannes to win the equivalent of the Palm D’Or.

“At first people were bemused and came out of curiosity. Then they got hooked and realised a whole world had opened up to them,” says Genni, who now lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

“It was a way to see different cities and cultures, stories and pictures which were completely different to what they were used to.”

Meanwhile Jim Poole’s eye for marketing kept the cinema in the public gaze by bringing huge name stars to the venue for lectures and personal appearances, among them Orson Welles and Cary Grant, while Sean Connery was enlisted to open its cinema bar in 1963.

“At one point people would queue around the block, but then it became difficult being an independent cinema,” adds Genni. “My father had to compete against the new multiple screen cinemas and then video which made a dent in every cinema business.

“When people started to watch films at home it was very strong competition. But the Cameo has a good following among people who have a great affection for cinema.”

Her father retired in the early Eighties and with no takers interested in continuing the business, the Cameo’s lights temporarily dimmed. By 1986, it was up and running again as part of a small independent chain.

Moves to turn it into a superpub were seen off in 2005 by a strong outpouring of support and 
affection from locals and celebrities.
Projectionist Eric Saunders, 57, who has worked at the Cameo since 1987, says the business and the people behind the scene has had to evolve. In the early days of the King’s, training a projectionist could take years, now it can be done in hours.

“Today the projectionist role is very much about sitting in front of a computer monitor, there’s very little ‘hands on film’ any longer. The film arrives on a hard drive, it’s downloaded to the system and it’s a case of pushing buttons in the right ways.

“Forget any notion of it being like Cinema Paradiso,” he says.

He’s not a huge fan of the modern, big-money blockbuster movies either, preferring the days when the Cameo showed 35mm film – even if it meant being constantly on your toes in case anything went wrong – and the images on screen had a softer quality, in more ways than just one.

“I think there’s a romance to the old 35mm images, both in digital and modern factors. In modern day life, we’re getting away from any subtlety, everything is a lot more harsh and fast moving.”

Genni agrees the old days were the best. “As a child I thought it was a magical place. The satin curtains and the red velvet seats . . . . it was just very special. It is a very precious cinema in terms of where it is in people’s hearts and its individual character. We have got to hold on to it as much as we can.”

Always a bright light in our city arts heritage

THE King’s Cinema opened in 1914, taking its name from the nearby King’s Theatre. It was bought by Jim Poole in 1947, renovated and reopened in 1949 as the Cameo, specialising in art and foreign movies.

It closed temporarily in the early Eighties after Mr Poole retired, but reopened in 1986 under ownership of a small chain of cinemas which retained its arthouse theme. It is now owned by PictureHouse Cinemas, part of Cineworld.

Movie A-lister Quentin Tarantino declared the Cameo among his favourite film houses when Pulp Fiction was shown there in 1994. And the cinema hosted the 1996 premiere of Edinburgh’s best known cinematic offering, Trainspotting. The venue has played host to stars from Lillian Gish to Charlize Theron, Patsy Kensit to Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor and Michael Redgrave.

It has even starred in films itself, featuring in Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist and in Women Talking Dirty, starring Helena Bonham Carter.

The Cameo’s future looked bleak in 2005 when its owners moved to close it down and reopen as a “superpub”. However, support from locals and celebrities – including Karolyn Grimes, who as a child starred in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Ken Loach and Ewen Bremner – forced an about-turn. Recently, its long links with the Edinburgh Film Festival were severed because its modern screen was deemed unsuitable.

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Interesting comments about a new home for the SCO from the orchestra's manager below. This relates to a discussion on the General thread a month or so back.

He confirms a couple of things previously rumoured - that they're looking at a purpose built venue, that it will likely be a shared facility (rumoured to be the Filmhouse and/or the Traverse theatre), and in a central location. This has to be the Argyle House site surely? Though he mentions more than one possibility so I'd be interested to know where else they're looking at. Maybe Fountainbridge? I can't think of another site with space for a multi-arts hub in the city centre.

Will SCO’s 40th birthday party include new Edinburgh venue?

Edinburgh Evening News - 2nd February, 2014

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 40th birthday this week, with concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow under principal conductor Robin Ticciati.

I’m just old enough to recall its origins as the flexible freelance band assembled in the early 1970s, under the umbrella management of the Scottish Philharmonic Society, to undertake pit duty for Scottish Opera productions when the SNO (now RSNO) or BBC SSO were unavailable. By 1974, however, motivated by a wish to “go solo” and make its own mark, the SCO was born.

From the start, this compact, chamber-sized alternative to the big orchestras filled a gap in the market that hadn’t been fully exploited by Leonard Friedman’s Scottish Baroque Ensemble (now the Scottish Ensemble) or the late Adrian Sheppard’s Cantilena, both of which explored their own niche repertoire and eclectic delivery style.

What the SCO brought to the table was a high-calibre chamber orchestra, containing some of the finest young players around (Janet Hilton was the first principal clarinet before she found fame as a soloist) and driven by a commitment to present the full gamut of chamber repertoire in the best possible light. Hilton, now in her late 60s and teaching in London at the Royal College of Music, remembers the “high expectations” demanded by the conductors who shaped the initial years.

“It was a terrific orchestra from the word go,” she says. Indeed, those first few seasons with the late Roderick Brydon as the first principal conductor, and the onset of an even longer relationship with Sir Charles Mackerras as principal guest, saw the SCO emerge as a world-ranking ensemble with a sound that was stylish, precise and electrifying.

When Hilton moved to America in 1980 to join the illustrious St Paul Chamber Orchestra, she quickly realised what she was missing. “The SCO were such an individual and spontaneous bunch who talked easily with conductors. That didn’t happen with the St Paul’s players. It was boring by comparison.”

Double bassist Adrian Bornet was immediately hit by the same sense of something special happening. “We were trying to find a voice, and in doing so, setting the bar particularly high,” he recalls. “Once it was set, we just kept pushing it up.”

The SCO’s first managing director, Michael Storrs, brought with him a wealth of artists agency experience, so the initial decade, with violinist John Tunnell as an inspirational leader, was already awash with regular top soloists and conductors – violinist Oscar Shumsky, conductor James Conlon, Mitsuko Uchida’s complete Mozart piano concerto series and, of course, Mackerras’s initial appearances.

When Ian Ritchie took over as manager in the mid 1980s, he added a new dimension to the SCO’s activity, not least the creative relationship initiated with composer Peter Maxwell Davies, whose ten Strathclyde Concertos, commissioned by the then Strathclyde Regional Council for the SCO players, gave rise to educational programmes that were to involve and help establish such upcoming composers as James MacMillan, Gordon McPherson and Alasdair Nicolson.

For Steve King, who joined as a violist in 1983, and whose involvement in the educational programmes led to him combining his SCO playing with the position as director of music at Heriot-Watt University, these were “golden years”. “Max was younger then, so it was exciting to be involved so directly with his music,” he says.

Over the past decade, current manager Roy McEwan has championed music not instantly thought of as chamber orchestra repertoire: Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms under Joseph Swensen; Berlioz under the latest principal conductor Robin Ticciati. And composer associations continue, the most recent being Martin Suckling’s appointment as associate artist, whose latest commission, Six Speechless Songs, forms part of this week’s anniversary programme.

If there’s one birthday present McEwan would love to give his orchestra, it is a decent home venue in Edinburgh. “We need a high quality base in Edinburgh,” McEwan says. “We’re not far from being able to say something. There are a couple of venues that are high up the list, which imply working with certain artistic partners. These venues are pretty central. We won’t be building at the waterfront.”

Could it actually happen this time? Hopefully we’ll know before the SCO turns 41.

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Edinburgh’s St Stephen’s Church could be arts HQ

The Scotsman - 20th February, 2014

An architect spearheading a bid to save one of the most important Georgian buildings in Edinburgh claims a group of campaigners are on the verge of taking it over.

James Simpson said the taskforce trying to buy the former St Stephen’s Church is “very hopeful” a £500,000 bid will be accepted by Kirk bosses.

It is hoped it would become one of the “finest performance spaces in the country” for live music, dance and theatre, if a buy-out goes ahead.

Conservation architect Mr Simpson insisted there was enough financial muscle to ensure a viable bid for one of the best-known landmarks in the capital’s New Town.

If successful, the move would see the A-listed building – designed by renowned architect William Henry Playfair – run by a charitable trust as a year-round, 800-capacity cultural centre.

The building, which dates to 1827, would also be put forward for a multi-million pound refurbishment, with the Heritage Lottery Fund expected to be asked to help secure its future.

The Scotsman has learned there have been more than 50 notes of interest in the building, put up for sale last year by the Church of Scotland after being run as a community centre for the previous two decades.

There have been concerns from local residents that the former church would be converted into flats or a bar-restaurant complex. Agents handling the sale for the Church of Scotland have set a closing date and will then advise the Kirk on which bids are the most viable.

However, retaining the building as an arts centre may avoid the need to secure planning permission for a change of use, as it already plays host to shows every August during the Fringe.

Mr Simpson has been appointed chair of the new St Stephen’s Playfair Trust. He said the group was looking to replicate the model which spearheaded the rescue of the former Catholic Apostolic Church at the bottom of Broughton Street, dubbed “Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel” for its celebrated murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair.

Mr Simpson said: “We have instructed solicitors to make an offer which, in general terms, will be to acquire the building for a sum of £505,000, for completion one year after the date of acceptance of the offer.

“The trust will also request a lease, enabling occupation of the building and continuation of community use, from as early a date as possible until completion of the purchase.

“We’re confident of our ability – through community action and professional fundraising – to raise the funds and complete the purchase within a year.

“While no firm decisions can be made until the trust has ownership of the building, the general intention will be to raise in the order of £5 million to undertake the major repairs, alterations and improvements which St Stephen’s deserves.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh World Heritage Trust said: “The building is right on the edge of the New Town, but is one of its real architectural treasures. The priority should be some form of sustainable use that is in keeping with its character.”

A spokesman for property agents Rettie, who are handling the sale, said: “We have had a lot of interest ahead of the closing date – we must have had at least 50 viewings of the building.”

James Jack, chair of the Church of Scotland’s general trustees, which will decide on the sale of the building, declined to comment ahead of the closing date.

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Arts philanthropist snaps up St Stephen’s Church

The Scotsman - 28th February, 2014

A mystery arts philanthropist has snapped up an under-threat Georgian landmark in Edinburgh, The Scotsman can reveal.

The Church of Scotland has agreed a deal well in excess of the £500,000 selling price for the former St Stephen’s Church.

The Kirk’s selling agents say the unnamed “philanthropist”, who is in final legal talks to confirm the sale, wants to retain the venue on St Stephen Street in Stockbridge for community use and run it as a performing arts space.

The deal, confirmed after more than 50 potential buyers expressed an interest in the building, thwarted reported efforts to turn it into private flats or a bar-restaurant complex.

The A-listed building, designed by “Athens of the North” architect William Henry Playfair, is hailed by experts as one of the architectural gems in and around the city’s New Town.

The building, which includes a 160ft tower, the longest clock pendulum in Europe and a terrace boasting spectacular views across the Lothians and Fife, is divided into three levels, including an 800-capacity venue suitable for live music, dance and theatre.

However, the successful bid does not involve the charitable trust that was set up by a group of locals and conservation experts to try to buy the building.

Its backers say they have “no idea” who has bought the building, which was put on the market for offers over £500,000 after being declared surplus to requirements by the Church.

And it is not yet known if the building, one of the key Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues north of Princes Street, will be available for shows this summer.

The building had effectively been run as a local community centre for the last two decades, but its use had declined dramatically in recent years. Its sale had been promoted as a “unique opportunity to acquire one of the most important Georgian buildings in Edinburgh”.

David Reid, an associate at Rettie, the firm handling the sale on behalf of the Kirk, said: “The Church of Scotland discussed the various offers for the building earlier this year and agreed to accept the highest offer.

“We cannot name the successful bidder at the moment, until the sale has been completely finalised, but it is a private individual who has a philanthropic charitable trust.

“The intention is to keep it running as a community and performing arts centre.”

The St Stephen’s Playfair Trust had unveiled plans for a long-term refurbishment and restoration of the building – to replicate the model which spearheaded the rescue of the former Catholic Apostolic Church at the bottom of Broughton Street, dubbed “Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel” for its celebrated murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair.

Award-winning Edinburgh architect James Simpson, spokesman for the trust, which offered just over the asking price, said its members were “very disappointed” to lose out.

He added: “We have no idea who the successful bidder is, so we’ve not been able to contact them, although we understand the winning bid was significantly higher than the asking price.

“We’ve been in touch with everyone who expressed an interest in working with us, but no-one seems to know who it is.

“All we have heard is that they want the present use of the building to continue and that they have a charitable trust.

“We felt we were in with a 50/50 chance when we submitted our bid, so we’re very disappointed at the outcome, although we don’t think we’re out of the game yet. We would be happy to speak to the new owner about their plans.”

No-one at the Church of Scotland was available for comment.

11,779 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
First I've been aware of the Filmhouse possibly moving to Potterrow (once it has been reconfigured) - never considered it before but I think it could actually work really well there - though Fountainbridge sounds like the favoured option.

International Film Festival home to move

The Scotsman - 7th April, 2014

The home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival for the last 35 years is lining up a move to a new purpose-built complex, The Scotsman can reveal.

A swathe of land on the banks of the Union Canal, which was previously home to the McEwan’s brewing empire, is believed to be the favourite for the new site of the Filmhouse.

A new building for the cinematic institution, which hosts many of the festival’s gala premieres, has been earmarked on a proposed new masterplan for the Foutainbridge area.

Artist’s impressions of the currently derelict site show how it would be transformed into a waterfront complex of new homes, offices, hotels and canalside cafés.

The Filmhouse has played host to dozens of red carpet events since it opened on the site in 1979, with Russell Crowe the most recent celebrity to visit for a gala premiere of his new blockbuster Noah last month.

An alternative site in the city centre is also being explored – behind the National Museum of Scotland and the Festival Theatre – as part of a radical overhaul of the area.

However, the Fountainbridge site has already been cleared for development and work could begin with the next couple of years, subject to planning permission and funding.

The plans for a new arthouse complex have emerged almost a decade after proposals were revealed for a £20 million complex on Festival Square, next to the existing site, which failed to win the backing of the city council.

The Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), which runs both the Filmhouse and the film festival, has launched a poll to gauge support for moving to one of the two sites.

The CMI has said that a “central element” of its plans will be to ensure that “a re-imagined Filmhouse is fully accessible and is able to provide all our customers and audiences with the highest quality experience.”

It is understood the existing site on Lothian Road will be difficult to overhaul in future. The last major improvements were carried out there in 1997, when a third screen was added.

However, there is a dilemma over whether to uproot the Filmhouse from its home at the heart of the culture quarter, which also includes the Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres and the Usher Hall.

CMI chief executive Ken Hay said: “We know a large number of people in Edinburgh hold the existing Filmhouse in very high regard.

“But it is a B-listed Victorian church building, which means we are very restricted on what we can do with it.

“There are obviously limited sites coming up for development in Edinburgh and we wanted to look at options around ten minutes walk from the existing Filmhouse.

“But we realise there are obviously implications about moving to a new site, including the cost of a brand new building and things like public transport links.”

The waterfront site is already earmarked for a new arts complex, one of two cultural quarters identified on the blueprint, which is currently out for consultation.

The Heritage Lottery Fund last week ringfenced £5 million for the transformation of a former rubber factory into a new base for the Edinburgh Printmakers organisation, which will boast two galleries, a café-bar and terrace, artists’ studios, office space and a shop.

Sarah Price, chief executive of the Edinburgh Printmakers, said: “As far as we are concerned the more cultural organisations and facilities that are based in the area the better.”

Richard Lewis, culture leader at Edinburgh City Council, said: “The plan we are consulting on at the moment for Fountainbridge includes a whole cultural triangle and we would be keen to support any ventures which help us realise that vision.”
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