Brian Ferguson: Delays will not hurt box-office

Renovations of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow are behind schedule. Picture: Robert Perry.
Renovations of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow are behind schedule. Picture: Robert Perry.
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DELAYS in rebuilding or renovation have not hurt venues’ box-office in the past, writes Brian Ferguson.

It was a day book-ended with forays inside two of the nation’s cultural jewels – one at the either end of the M8.

There was no disguising the fact that the transformation of the Theatre Royal at the top of Glasgow’s Hope Street is running late. Scottish Opera has confirmed they have shelved plans for a grand unveiling in May – just ten months after announcing the completion date. It is largely still a shell.

After a tour around the impressively modern extension which is still taking shape, it strikes me as slightly optimistic to suggest everything will be ready for its rescheduled unveiling at the end of July for the Commonwealth Games culture programme.

Alex Reedijk, Scottish Opera’s general director, was pretty chipper as he painted a picture of the venue his company would be boasting before long.

He has had a fair old battering in these pages, particularly over the last year. But I suspect his reputation at the helm of the company may well soar once the new extension to the Victorian theatre is completed.

And, as he pointed out last week, a delay of four to five weeks may not be too troublesome once the facilities in the extension are actually up and running.

In the great scheme of things with major construction projects, including the arts world, he definitely has a point.

The much-publicised delays elsewhere in Glasgow with the Hydro arena, which amounted to just a few weeks in the end – despite a significant fire – have been largely forgotten about as the crowds have flooded into the venue.

Other schemes have suffered much more significant delays.

The timetable for the new V&A museum in Dundee has slipped at least a couple of years, with the original vision for the project scaled back significantly in a bid to keep costs down.

And in Edinburgh, the refurbishment of the Usher Hall – where I ended up on Thursday night – was a long, tortuous process before it was finally completed in 2010.

A flick through the official programme for its 100th birthday celebrations reminded me of two things.

Firstly, that it took 14 years to complete a full restoration and extension of the Usher Hall after the collapse of part of the ceiling into the auditorium.

It took four years longer than that for the original venue to be unveiled a century ago – long after drinks industry tycoon Andrew Usher donated £100,000 to the city for a new concert hall.

In fact, he didn’t live to see a brick laid, dying the year before work eventually started.