Youth projects fear 'closure' if Edinburgh Festival Fringe is given go-ahead to turn city centre building into new HQ
Community youth groups in Edinburgh fear they will face the “threat of closure” if local councillors approve plans to turn their base into a new headquarters for the Festival Fringe.
It emerged earlier this year the Fringe Society was in talks with the city council to take over the running of the South Bridge Resource and Education Centre on Infirmary Street.
Under the plans, which could be rubber-stamped next month, the Victorian school building would be turned into a “hub” that would bring the Fringe Society’s staff and services under one roof. The project dates back to 2017 and has the backing of £7 million from the UK Government.
However, the resource centre is used by several community groups, some of whom say they would face an uncertain future if the deal goes ahead.
Julian Vaughan runs Tonegarden music studios based at Summerhall and also serves as a trustee on the board at Totally Sound/Reel Youth Media – youth projects which are run from South Bridge Resource and Education Centre.
He told The Scotsman: “The concern is that, should they get the go ahead to take over the building at South Bridge, all the existing projects, including Totally Sound and Reel Youth Media, will cease to run as suitable alternative premises will not be available.
"It is a great shame that in a city such as Edinburgh, a place that prides itself on its rich cultural heritage, projects such as Totally Sound and Reel Youth Media, which offer unique and invaluable experiences allowing individuals to grow and in turn add to the culture, should be under threat of closure, in favour of organisations who are established and offer little to the local creative community.
"If this is allowed to continue, Edinburgh’s claim to be a centre for the arts will be a hollow one.”
Now entering its 20th year, Totally Sound provides opportunities for young people aged from 12 to 18 to engage with a wide range of musical and creative activities, including musical instrument and vocal instruction, studio recording, song writing, promotion and event production.
Combined with Reel Youth Media, the project also offers the chance to learn digital creation and video editing skills, as well as effective use of social media platforms.
Mr Vaughan said: “Over the years they’ve had folk coming from East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian – all over. If it was to move to another part of town, it would make it very difficult to make it accessible to so many people.”
Another group, Canongate Youth, has already been told it will be allowed to remain a tenant of the building.
An Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society spokesperson said: “The Fringe Society, a not-for-profit registered charity, has sought funding for a number of years to support the Fringe on many levels, including the creation of a new home. The preference, if possible, would see capital funds reinvested into a heritage building in the city … the intention has always been a positive one, to provide a public-facing, accessible, and environmentally sound space for the services of the Fringe Society, and for its wide-ranging stakeholders; to tell the story of Edinburgh’s Fringe, and to ensure we provide the greatest benefit to artists, residents, audiences and the wider festival community.”
Cllr Joan Griffiths, education, children and families convener for the city council, said: ““I want to reassure anyone who may be affected by a potential change in use of the building that we are actively developing potential alternative options if required.
"An updated report on progress and a decision on awarding a lease to the Fringe will be considered by councillors in January. Once we know the committee decision, we will update organisations and users, and if the building is to be leased, will engage around options, next steps and likely timeline. We are confident in being able to re-locate classes and groups and the potential lease of the venue does not signal the end of important activity.”
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