Music promoters condemn plan to axe vital Queen's Hall funds
SOME of Scotland's leading music promoters today condemned plans which could force the Queen's Hall to close within five years as part of plans to create a new Waterfront venue.
Concert organisers who have brought some of music's biggest names to the city over the years have called for the venue to be saved. The council is threatening to axe its 150,000 annual subsidy in favour of turning the Assembly Rooms, on George Street, into a temporary concert venue, while plans for a major new complex on the waterfront are pursued.
Consultants hired by the council said there was no long-term future for the South Clerk Street venue and that it faces the end of its active life within the next five years.
The idea has shocked concert promoters, who have said there is no reason for the Queen's Hall to make way for a proposed new waterfront arena, and have cast doubt on the suitability of the Assembly Rooms as a temporary replacement.
The prospect of the Queen's Hall being allowed to close has been condemned by three leading promoters. Regular Music, the city's main promoters of pop and rock events, warned concert-goers face missing up-and-coming acts if the Queen's Hall closes.
Assembly Direct, organisers of the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival, said its closure would leave the festival with a major headache, as the Assembly Rooms is fully booked during August.
Country and Americana promoters Lonesome Highway said the Queen's Hall's demise would leave them with just one viable alternative venue for concerts, the Liquid Room, on Victoria Street, which is an all-standing venue.
Regular pulled the plug on staging concerts at the Assembly Rooms several years ago after plasterwork came off a ceiling during a Stereophonics concert.
Among the acts it has staged at the Queen's Hall are The Flaming Lips, The Proclaimers, Mogwai and David Byrne.
It is understood the Assembly Rooms needs several million pounds spent on it to make it suitable for proper concerts.
Outwith the Edinburgh Festival Fringe it is rarely used for public events, although senior council officials are understood to believe it has massive potential if a major revamp can be funded.
Supporters of the Queen's Hall say that cash should be spent on the upkeep of the existing, established music venue.
Mark Mackie, of Regular Music, said: "The great thing about the Queen's Hall is its versatility. It is suitable for all kinds of concerts.
"It would cost a huge amount of money to bring the Assembly Rooms up to scratch because of the amount of work that is needed, while there is nothing essentially wrong with the Queen's Hall.
"The acoustics at the Queen's Hall are excellent and that's not the case at the Assembly Rooms."
Fiona Alexander, of Assembly Direct, said: "Losing the Queen's Hall would be a complete tragedy. Some of the best concerts we've staged have been there and it's one of the best venues in the country.
"It's infrastructure isn't ideal but the acoustics are excellent for live jazz music and the Assembly Rooms would need a huge amount of work for it to be suitable. A new venue on the waterfront is going to be a long-term option but I'm not sure it will be viable as people are resistant to travelling outwith the city centre 'comfort zone'."
Dave Mowat, of Lonesome Highway, added: "There is a dearth of suitable venues in Edinburgh at the moment for the kind of concerts we put on. Our audiences prefer seated gigs, particularly with the Venue, on Calton Road, just closing down, but if the Queen's Hall was to close we would be left with just the Liquid Room. Not everyone wants to watch a concert in a sweaty nightclub."
Adrian Harris, chief executive at the Queen's Hall, which earlier this year played host to rising jazz star Corinne Bailey Rae, said: "The idea that the Assembly Rooms could somehow replace the Queen's Hall is just bizarre. It just doesn't work as a live music venue and is going to need an awful lot of money spent on it."
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