Former lawyer, online dating pioneer and university principal called in to raise millions for outdoor concert arena in Edinburgh

A new stage and amphitheatre for events would be created in West Princes Street Gardens under plans to replace the Ross Bandstand.
A new stage and amphitheatre for events would be created in West Princes Street Gardens under plans to replace the Ross Bandstand.
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A former corporate lawyer, an online dating entrepreneur, a recruitment consultant and a past principal of St Andrews University have been called in to help raise millions of pounds for a new concert arena and visitor centre in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.


Sir Andrew Cubie, Bill Dobbie, Judy Wagner and Dr Brian Lang will lead a drive to secure major philanthropic gifts and corporate backers for The Quaich Project, which would see the run-down Ross Bandstand replaced with a new amphitheatre.

Sir Andrew Cubie will lead efforts to raise 25 million to transform West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

Sir Andrew Cubie will lead efforts to raise 25 million to transform West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

They join a number of senior business and legal figures who are advising on the project, including Liz McAreavy, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, QC John Campbell, who has represented Donald Trump’s business empire in its wind farm battle with the Scottish Government, and former Standard Life chief executive Sir Sandy Crombie.

A two-storey visitor centre and hospitality complex will also be created overlooking the Hobbit House-style performance stage if the £25 million project, which is described as essential to “future-proof” the future of the gardens, goes ahead.

It has been instigated by Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford, who has struck an agreement with the city council in 2016 to pursue the redevelopment of the historic gardens, which have hosted live music events since the first bandstand was created in 1877.

Mr Springford and the council have created a public-private partnership to take forward the project after an American-led bid to resign the gardens won an international design competition in 2017.

The team behind The Quaich Project, which launched a global fundraising campaign in New York in October, has pledged it will “reimagine the gardens as a space for all to celebrate and enjoy in new ways” and be “sensitive to the past,” but will also “maximise” their future potential.

Sir Andrew, a senior partner with the law firm Fyfe Ireland and led a major review of student finance in Scotland which led to the abolition of tuition fees, has been appointed chair of The Quaich Project’s fundraising board. He has been chair of George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland, and chair of the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Edinburgh-born entrepreneur Dobbie was a co-founder of both the online dating company Cupid and a new distillery on the Isle of Raasay. Dr Lang, who was born in Edinburgh, was principal of St Andrews University between 2001 and 2008. Wagner, co-founder of the Edinburgh-based firm FWB Park Brown a graduate of Edinburgh University, began her career as a chartered accountant and worked in commerce before moving into recruitment.

Sir Andrew said: “I regard West Princes Street Gardens as a jewel in the crown of the city.

“It’s a vital public resource and it needs to be presented in the best possible way for the 21st century – it needs to be refreshed.

“To me The Quaich Project affords the opportunity of that refreshment in a manner that is collaborative, positive and ambitious.

“Philanthropy has been at the heart of some of Scotland’s most successful major developments of public and arts spaces, and The Quaich Project is no different.”

Jules Haston, director of development at The Quaich Project, said: “As a public-private partnership, The Quaich Project has to raise £25 million to make the vision a reality, creating an accessible space for all in the heart of Edinburgh.

“Only through creative and considered fundraising can we realise that goal.

“Each member of the board brings a deep wealth of experience and I’m excited to work closely with them to raise the money to future-proof West Princes Street Gardens.”