Plans by the Festival City Theatre’s Trust for an extensive £25 million redevelopment project at the King’s Theatre have passed their first hurdle with the City of Edinburgh Council. The plans have been given the nod at the CEC’s finance and resources committee, which has agreed an in-principle allocation of £5million for the project in its capital investment programme for 2018-23, as well as an in-principle extension of the King’s lease.
The complex plans involve work on both the front of house facilities and back stage. The redevelopment is expected to take 18 months, it would start in 2021 and be timed to “mitigate” impact on key partners such as the Edinburgh International Festival.
Onstage, the rake – or slope – of the stage will be removed so it can take more modern touring companies in general – and dance productions in particular. Backstage, access for sets will be improved, as well the dressing rooms.
A report to the CEC’s culture committee gives an idea of the Trust’s thinking behind the refurbishment, saying that the ambition is to modernise the 111 year-old King’s Theatre and ensure its preservation for at least the next 50 years. It says the plans: “will ensure both day and night time activities and use, through the creation of a destination venue and visitor attraction which showcases the history of Scottish theatre, and celebrates the locality. “Facilities and spaces designed especially for lifelong learning will be provided.”
Front of house, the plans include improvements to access, toilet facilities and bars as well as using existing rooms for use by community groups to expand existing learning, participation and outreach programmes.
The Trust currently leases the King’s and runs it on behalf of the CEC. The council has now agreed in principle to grant an extension to that lease for another 25 years from when it comes up for renewal in 2013. The Trust says it will put £5million into the project, using its theatre development fund which is resourced from through their ticket levy. The council has agreed in principle, to pledge £5million towards the project as landlords.
Because the whole project falls in the 2018-23 budget, the council is unable to make a concrete decision now. However, the Trust needs the in-principle agreement now, so it can approach funders such as the Heritage Lottery, which has a deadline of December 2017 for the relevant application period.
Duncan Hendry, the Trust’s chief executive has said: “So this is major progress and although the funding is by no means definite – it will allow us to proceed with a Heritage Lottery Fund application with in principle support from the Council.
“Funding from a successful HLF application is likely to be conditional on the CEC contribution – which will be a further encouragement for CEC to confirm their funding in due course.”