by Liz Gorrie
Edinburgh needs £250 million to prevent its 73 arts and cultural venues from falling short of world-class standards, a report has found.
The £35 million already earmarked is for arts projects is not nearly enough, the Edinburgh Council report states.
The plan for £250 million refurbishment programme would see venues such as the Assembly Rooms and the Kings Theatre transformed. It would also contribute to the building of new venues such as a 10,000 seat concert arena at Ingliston. £100 million and £50 million options have also been suggested which would maintain current venues but not consider as many new projects.
Arts bodies such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra are frustrated with the lack of funds. Chief Executive of the RSNO Simon Woods says “we are…disappointed that…we are again being forced to change plans for concerts which we believed to be absolutely firm commitments”.
The 2008-09 Capital Budget sees 4% of Edinburgh’s spending being put aside for cultural and related services. So it must be asked if more funds are available if the current council review finds money needs to be injected into cultural services.
The Usher Hall which is undergoing to £25 million refurbishment has already hit financial problems. Plans to re-open in April this year have been shelved due to increasing costs. It will now re-open in August in time for the Edinburgh International Festival. This however has not filled many groups such as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) with confidence over Edinburgh’s ability to invest in the arts. The RSNO has had to completely cancel it’s concerts which were to be held at the Usher Hall.
Labour group culture spokesman Paul Godzik commented that “the city has been lacking a proper strategy for its cultural venues and I hope this [council report] can provide this”. In view of the current state of our banks some people are asking that if the council do decide to increase arts funds where the money will come from.
An Edinburgh council-led review is currently investigating such suggestions and is to report back to councillors in April.