Edinburgh book festival eyes new concert hall as it outgrows home turf

An artist's impression of The Impact Centre.
An artist's impression of The Impact Centre.
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The Edinburgh International Book Festival is set to expand to the other end of the New Town, where organisers have ambitious plans to stage events in the city’s new £45 million concert hall.

Some of the world’s most famous authors could appear in the 1,000-seat auditorium of the Impact Centre, which is due to open by 2021.

How the venue will look from St Andrew Square

How the venue will look from St Andrew Square

The venue at St Andrew Square, which would be the city’s first new purpose-built concert hall in more than a century, is already expected to play host to Edinburgh International Festival events.

It is thought the book festival would be able to stage events there both during and outwith August. It has experienced growing demand for tickets in recent years and increased the capacity of its main pop-up theatre in Charlotte Square Garden from 600 to 750.

The festival has staged other one-off events throughout the year at the Usher Hall, the King’s Theatre, the Queen’s Hall and St Mary’s Cathedral.

It spilled out of Charlotte Square Garden into the west end of George Street last year and put one of biggest venues in the street last month.

Organisers want to reduce the impact of the event on the privately owned New Town garden, which is unable to host events at other times of year due to the need to allow its turf to recover.

Sir Ewan Brown, chair of Impact Scotland, cited the book festival’s recent special event, a rare revival of Dame Muriel Spark’s play Doctors of Philosophy, as an example of something that could be staged in the Impact Centre in future.

He added: “We’re already speaking to the book festival and they are really interested in working with us. They have had their own issues with Charlotte Square but have a really good relationship with the proprietors. They have already shown that they can do events outside Charlotte Square Garden.

“We want to show this is the venue that would really work for them.

“The discussions we are having are with a view to having book festival events here in August and throughout the year. We think they would absolutely fit in with our building.”

Book festival director Nick Barley, pictured left, said: “As we expand our On the Road programme, with events both outside August and outside Charlotte Square Garden during August, we very much look forward to working with the new concert hall.

“Proposals for this hall give us another opportunity to bring world-renowned authors to Edinburgh through the year.”

Roddy Smith, chief executive of city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “The plans for the new concert hall look absolutely superb.

“Once open, it will be a fantastic addition to the city and the New Town in particular and enable year round performances of not just music but hopefully other art forms as well.

“During the main festival season it will also be a huge boost to the New Town to have another main venue on the north of Princes Street to compliment activity elsewhere in the city.”