Major revamp of Edinburgh arts venues to put culture at heart of the capital

The Writers' Museum at Lady Stair's House in Edinburgh
The Writers' Museum at Lady Stair's House in Edinburgh
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A BLUEPRINT to overhaul museums and galleries in the historic heart of Edinburgh, bring unused buildings back to life as cultural spaces and raise the profile of the capital’s world city of literature status has been revealed.

Transforming a neglected 15th-century church building into an arts venue, creating a writer’s residence in a historic courtyard and more permanent gallery space to showcase the capital’s hidden art treasures are all planned.

The Museum of Childhood. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Museum of Childhood. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Old City Observatory on Calton Hill, the former brass rubbing centre off the Royal Mile, and unused basement areas of the Central Library will become new venues under the city council’s masterplan.

Council leaders say there has been a concerted effort to make more use of the city’s assets by generating interest from commercial operators and arts organisations.

The blueprint has been revealed months after the first phase of an overhaul of the Museum of Edinburgh and relocation of the Edinburgh World Heritage body into a neighbouring empty building on the Canongate was unveiled.

Office space above the Writer’s Museum off the Lawnmarket will be refurbished and be made available to writers and poets for study and research breaks in the city, while the first phase of a long-term transformation of the Central Library on George IV Bridge will see the Bongo Club relocate there from Holyrood Road from January under a deal agreed between the council and arts organisation Out of the Blue.

The brass rubbing centre off the Royal Mile

The brass rubbing centre off the Royal Mile

The Tron Kirk is set to become a heritage and culture centre within the next four years, and will be run as a bar in the short term over the festive season and next year’s Fringe.

The Museum of Childhood on the High Street is to get a long-awaited modern conversion, expected to take around two years to get under way, while the City Art Centre, the council’s main public gallery, will get a new permanent display area for little-seen works from its collections.

Frank Little, the council’s museums manager, said: “Some of the buildings we’re talking about, like Trinity Apse, off behind the Scottish Storytelling Centre and the Scottish Book Trust’s headquarters, are real hidden gems. The building has been lying empty for some time and we are very keen to see it brought back into use.

“Some projects, like the new gallery and storage space at the City Art Centre, which will allow the venue to remain open all year for the first time, are happening over the next few months and the Collective Gallery is due to move into the observatory building next year.

“Others, like the longer-term ambitions for the Tron Kirk and the refurbishment of the Museum of Childhood, are likely to take several years.”

David Hicks, marketing manager for Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “We are working closely in collaboration with the museums service to revitalise historic buildings across the World Heritage Site, including our offices at Acheson House.

“After nearly 20 years of lying derelict, this 17th century building has now been brought back to life, and the garden is being restored.”