A cafe-bar, box office and concourses will be created at the Queen’s Hall under a blueprint revealed ahead of a major fundraising campaign due to get under way later this year.
Daylight will be allowed to flood into the venue with the opening up of blanked-off windows and the creation of the new glazed entrance into the building.
Audiences will also be able to look out on to South Clerk Street from a new first-floor “gallery” where a third, pop-up, bar could be created for certain events. The changes, which will see the venue lit up by new “lanterns” after dark, are aimed at tackling perceptions it is closed even when a concert is on.
The changes to the front of the building are expected to transform “dark and uninviting” foyer spaces and stairwells and allow the Queen’s Hall to expand its corporate hospitality facilities.
More comfortable seating is expected to be installed in the pews of the historic auditorium, but will hopefully be able to be removed for “standing” concerts.
Video screens will also be installed to allow audiences better views of shows without altering listed features of the building, which is due to celebrate its 40th anniversary as a concert venue in 2019.
A long-term vision, released to supporters of the venue, said the proposed changes would “breathe new life” into the venue while ensuring that the “essential character” of the auditorium is unaltered. Chris Duncan, partner at Mill Design, the project architects, said: “The Queen’s Hall is in urgent need of restoration and modernisation to ensure its future as a viable, leading international venue for all genres of musical performance in Edinburgh.
“This agreed need has arisen out of feedback we’ve received from artists, along with detailed workshops between the design team and staff to establish the key areas where change is required. Addressing these limitations would greatly enhance its strength as a going concern.”
Although no funding is any place for the proposed scheme, it is hoped a successful appeal will allow work to be completedor the building’s 200th anniversary in 2023.
Nigel Griffiths, chair of the Queen’s Hall board, said: “We want a building that is fit for the 21st century. We’re about to interview fundraisers with a view to starting a drive for the £3m at the end of the summer.
“One of the limitations with the Queen’s Hall is that it can look closed when it is open. People will be able to see right into the building in future, as they can at the moment with the Festival Theatre.
“Our ambition is to double the audience numbers we are getting. We’re open all year, but we have around 100 unused nights. We want to make it a go-to venue for any sort of musical taste 365 days of the year.”