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Unfit for purpose? Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall in the CS spotlight

- 19 September 2013

Inadequate: Edinburgh's Queen's Hall Photo: Alastair Wight

Inadequate: Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall
Photo: Alastair Wight

The inadequacies of Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall as a concert venue have once again come under scrutiny in a Music Sector Review commissioned by Creative Scotland. This latest report points out that the venue, which currently promotes a range of music events including classical, folk, rock and jazz, is ‘by its nature, insufficiently flexible and not well suited for many such events particularly because as a listed building any major alterations are simply not possible’.

Indeed the Queen’s Hall, which is privately owned, is an 18th-century chapel which was converted into a music venue in 1979. Not only is it a listed building, but it is on a land-locked site which makes it difficult to develop or increase its audience capacity. In 2010 the Queen’s Hall board initiated a campaign to raise money to create a new 125 seat space in addition to the current 900 seater venue with vastly improved public spaces. However this £8.5m refurbishment plan failed to secure capital project funding from Creative Scotland last October.

Scotland’s capital lacks a modern concert venue for audiences between 300 and 900, something which the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), which performs regularly in the Queen’s Hall, has been trying to remedy for nearly two decades. During this time the frequent calls for a new concert venue were met by the commissioning of yet another audit of venue provision.

This latest report recommends that Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and other partners should ‘examine the full extent of facilities that a dedicated mid-scale venue could offer’. However, much of the territory has already been covered in the Mid-scale Music Venue Review commissioned by Edinburgh council and Creative Scotland’s predecessor, the Scottish Arts Council in 2006. This report recommended that all interested parties ‘should continue to address the long-term goal for Edinburgh to create a brand new purpose built mid-scale venue, primarily as a base for the SCO’.

Hopes were raised earlier this year when in April, following a Culture Charette ‒ yet another report from a gathering of representatives from public and private arts organisations organized by Edinburgh council ‒ four ‘vignettes’ of potential sites for an arts hub were unveiled. No further developments have been announced since as the status quo looks set to prevail.  As long the Queen’s Hall continues to open its doors for business, its unlikely that anyone, in these economically challenged times, will be rushing to fund a new concert hall any time soon.

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