Queen's Hall chief executive to stand down within weeks

The boss of one of Edinburgh's flagship concert halls has announced he is to quit - just weeks after it emerged a rival new venue is to be built in the city centre.

Adrian Harris has been in charge of the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh for the last 14 years.

Adrian Harris, has revealed he is to step down as chief executive of the Queen’s Hall after 14 years in the job.

It is the only major venue in the city to regularly host Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe and jazz festival concerts.

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Mr Harris has been leading efforts to revamp the 900-capacity venue, which has been hosting concerts since 1979 and is the permanent home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

But the refurishment plans have repeatedly stalled after failing to win the support of heritage and arts agencies during Mr Harris’s tenure.

The long-term future of the Queen’s Hall was thrown into doubt last month when it emerged that the SCO was pursuing plans for its own venue in Edinburgh’s New Town.

The 1000-seater venue is earmarked for a gap site behind the Royal Bank of Scotland’s historic head office. The Edinburgh International Festival has already confirmed plans to relocate its morning concerts there, as well as staging shows throughout the day duringh August.

The SCO said the £45 million complex, which it hopes to open in 2020, is being “located, conceived and designed” to avoid competing with the Usher Hall. However, like the Queen’s Hall, it has announced the new venue will be available for jazz, folk, chamber. rock, pop and electronica gigs.

In a statement announcing his departure on the Queen’s Hall website, Mr Harris said he would be stepping down at the end of this month.

However he said his decision was unconnected with the recent announcement from the SCO and insisted there was no reason why the Queen’s Hall could not co-exist with the new venue in future.

He said: “My decision had been reached well in advance of the SCO announcement and if it hadn’t been for that I would’ve probably announced my decision a little bit sooner.

“I began thinking about retiring from the Queen’s Hall just after the end of this year’s festival. I just felt it was the right time. I felt I wanted to have more time for myself, to pursue some voluntary activity that I’m involved on and it felt like the right thing to do for me and my family.

“I’ve absolutely no intention of pursuing or seeking another full-time position. However if any freelance opportunities arise that I’m genuinely interested in then I’ll be happy to look at them.”

In the wake of the SCO’s announcement, the chair of the Queen’s Hall board, Nigel Griffiths, revealed that new refurbishment plans were being drawn up in the hope of them being completed in time for the the venue’s 40th anniversary in 2019.

Mr Harris added: “The whole question of a new venue for the SCO and a refurbishment of the Queen’s Hall have been a constant theme of my 14 years.

“We welcome the proposal for a new hall for the SCO. It’s a great development for the city and it will also help clarify the future of the Queen’s Hall, the sort of venue it can be and the contribution it can make to the cultural life of the city.

“If you go to any major European city they have a venue like the Queen’s Hall which is a vital part of the life of that city, even if there are great contemporary concert halls just down the road. I see no reason why these venues can’t co-exist."

“I’ve had a wonderful time at the Queen’s Hall and want to thank everyone for all the support they’ve given me. I particularly want to thank the artists, bands, groups and ensembles whose performances have given me so much pleasure and our audiences and supporters, many of whom have become good friends over the years. ’m leaving a great staff team in place and wish them well for the future; it has been a privilege to work with them.”

Gavin Reid, chief executive of the SCO, said: “We’ve worked closely with Adrian Harris throughout his time as chief executive and wish him well in his retirement. We look forward to working as closely with his successor once they’ve been appointed.”