Stately home to be Scotland's newest rock and roll venue

OUTDOOR pop and rock gigs with a capacity of up to 12,000 are to become an annual fixture in the grounds of one of Scotland's ancestral homes.

Up to four major concerts are to be staged at Hopetoun House, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, each summer, with Elton John, Ronan Keating, Lionel Richie and Tom Jones thought to be contenders to perform.

Promoters behind hugely successful shows by Westlife and Rod Stewart in the Highlands have clinched an initial five-year deal with the family which has owned the stately home, in South Queensferry, since it was built in 1699.

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They are expected to go into direct competition with the promoters behind the annual 8,000-capacity concerts which are held at Edinburgh Castle esplanade each summer.

Inverness-based promoters Les Kidger and Kenny Cameron have been backed with a 100,000 loan from the Lloyds Banking Group to get their new promotional company, CK Events, off the ground. The pair have already signed an exclusivity deal, which prevents other promoters staging outdoor concerts, with the owners of Cawdor Castle, in Nairn, which staged last summer's Westlife gig.

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The concerts will be staged in front of Hopetoun House, which is set in 150 acres of rolling parkland, and enjoys a spectacular backdrop of the Fife coastline and the Forth Bridge.

It is hoped the venue's close proximity to the motorway network and Dalmeny railway station will help ease traffic problems, which are understood to have put off other promoters.

The last major musical event to be held at Hopetoun House - home to the Hope family since 1699 - saw Americana legends Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris perform there in 2000, although ticket sales fell far short of expectations. The home, a popular venue for conferences, corporate hospitality events and weddings, also plays host to fireworks displays and sporting events.

Mr Kidger said: "We hadn't even heard of Hopetoun House before it was recommended to us after last year's concerts in the Highlands. It was a bit of a surprise that it has never really been used for any concerts before, as it is ideal for the big-name concerts we plan to line up.

"We are in the process of growing our business on the back of successful events and have recently returned from the US where we met representatives of some global music names with a view to bringing them to Scotland.

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"We want to try to get away from the kind of 'tin-shed' concerts that are on in the likes of the SECC, but we're also aware that not everyone wants to go to a music festival where you have to pack a tent for a few days."

Piers de Salis, general manager at Hopetoun House, said: "We are delighted to reach this agreement which offers Edinburgh an exciting new and spectacular music venue.It will bring vast new audiences to enjoy the Hopetoun experience and will add fresh value to our visitor attraction product, without impinging on our wide range of corporate hospitality and other activities.

"We are confident that our partnership with CK Events has the capability to be highly productive and a major asset to the city and a much wider area."