EIF chiefs urge revamp of King's Theatre as fears of closure grow

The Kings Theatre needs to be refurbished both behind the scenes and for the audiences. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Kings Theatre needs to be refurbished both behind the scenes and for the audiences. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Edinburgh International Festival chiefs have called for an urgent upgrade of one of the city’s most historic theatres as it emerged the site is at “real risk of closure” within the next few years.

The EIF’s managing director, Joanna Baker, has warned the King’s Theatre is no longer fit for purpose, with outdated facilities for performers, productions and audiences.

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Speaking on a new short film produced to support the case for a revamp of the King’s, she said although the venue was a “jewel in the crown of the Festival,” it needed extensive work to ensure it could continue to attract world-class shows and artists in future.

Plans to close down the King’s for 18 months to allow a £25 million makeover to be carried out were unveiled earlier this year. Although the city council has pledged £5m and the Heritage Lottery Fund has been asked to provide the same, an appeal will need to raise at least £10m.

John Byrne, Ian Rankin, Bill Paterson, Elaine C Smith and Grant Stott – who goes behind the scenes at the King’s in the new short film – have all signed up as supporters.

Ms Baker said: “The King’s Theatre is one of the jewels in the crown of Edinburgh and of the International Festival.

“It’s really been at the heart of the Festival since the very beginning in 1947. There have been amazing stars performing there, from Maria Callas to Juliette Binoche very recently.

“There is just the most extraordinary atmosphere in the theatre. As soon as you step on stage you get this amazing sense of the auditorium, and the closeness and intimacy with the audience. The audience feel that too.

“But everything around it really needs a lot of sorting out. The experience for the audience these days really isn’t great. People come to the Festival for the artists and the work, but these days people expect great facilities to match the great art on stage.

“It becomes all the more difficult to bring in all the great stars and also to make thinks work technically. It needs to be brought into the 21st century.

“We’re really blessed in Edinburgh with these beautiful old theatres, but they need cherishing, need upgraded and need to keep with the times.”

Duncan Hendry, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “If we don’t do something soon the theatre is liable to close because it doesn’t meet current standards.

“There’s a real risk it might close if there is a catastrophic failure of equipment.

“It’s really important that this work is done during the next few years.”