Opposition to the loss of Queen's Hall grows louder
FESTIVAL organisers today joined the chorus of criticism against plans to shut one of the Capital's leading concert halls.
The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have both attacked the idea of ploughing cash into an overhaul of the Assembly Rooms rather than keeping the Queen's Hall running.
The council, which gives 100,000 a year into the South Clerk Street venue, has branded the former church unsuitable for modern-day concerts and wants it replaced with a new purpose-built venue on the waterfront.
But major doubts are emerging over the council's plans for the Queen's Hall, one of the few venues to cater for more than one festival, because of the scale of opposition from arts organisations.
Leading promoters Regular Music and the programmers of the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival, Assembly Direct, have already condemned the idea of the Assembly Rooms acting as a "bridge" between the closure of the Queen's Hall and the opening of the flagship new complex.
Now Fringe and International Festival chiefs have echoed their criticisms.
The Assembly Rooms is fully-booked throughout the festival, when the Assembly Theatre Company, run by veteran Fringe promoter William Burdett-Coutts, takes over the historic building.
Fringe director Paul Gudgin said: "Although the Queen's Hall does have some physical limitations, it is a unique venue in Edinburgh because of its use by the festivals, and the Assembly Rooms would be an inferior replacement for it if it was to close. I would hate to see that happen.
"There would also be an obvious problem during August in trying to replace the Queen's Hall with the Assembly Rooms because the latter is already 100 per cent choc-a-block."
Adrian Trickey, administrative director of the EIF, said: "It would be regrettable if Edinburgh had to choose between maintaining the Queen's Hall and creating a new 1200-seat concert venue.
"A city that is determined to maintain world leadership as a cultural destination needs both.
"I hope we can talk about adding a flexible exciting new space as an addition to Edinburgh's range of venues, not about acquiring one good thing at the cost of losing another."
Senior councillors and officials want a revamp of the Assembly Rooms to take priority over the continued running of the Queen's Hall, which is owned by a charity, unlike the George Street venue, which the local authority is responsible for running and maintaining.
Mr Burdett-Coutts believes hundreds of thousands of pounds will need to be invested by the council to transform the building into a suitable venue for high-quality concerts and said there was nothing wrong with the Queen's Hall, which he also used in recent years.
He said: "The Queen's Hall is a lovely building with a great acoustic.
There is actually nothing wrong with it."
City council leader Donald Anderson said: "The problem with the Queen's Hall is the difficulty in trying to refurbish it to modern-day standards.
"There would be concern from heritage bodies about trying to carry out major alterations to the auditorium.
"The council's hands are tied on this issue."
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