Council's proposals for the Assembly Rooms

Monday, 6 December 2010

Dear Spurtle,

I don't know if you've heard about the Council's proposals for the
Assembly Rooms – to effectively privatise the ground floor and turn it
into boutique shops and a 'fine dining' restaurant? I got news of this
via Gerda Stevenson, the prominent Scottish actor, director and
playwright (see below).

I know that it's not quite the geographical area you cover, but it does
seem to me emblematic of the Council's habit of turning public, cultural
free space into exclusive commercial development. Broughton residents (I
am of their number) may like to add their weight to the list of those
who object to this.

with all good wishes,

Dr Sara Lodge

Dear Friends
I wonder if you are aware of Edinburgh City Council's plans to turn the
wonderful, historic Assembly Rooms into a shopping centre? An appalling
decision, in my view. The Assembly rooms should not only continue to
operate as the superb fringe theatre venue it is during the Edinburgh
Festival (I have seen so many ground-breaking theatre productions there
over the last three decades and more), it would make a terrific centre
for the Arts all year round in our capital city.
Do we really need another shopping centre? And during this time of
recession? It's well documented that in hard times the Arts do well –
people need hope, which is what the Arts give to us. And the Arts
provide tremendous stimulus to our economy. The Assembly Rooms venue
offers a unique possibility for the city of Edinburgh – its
distinctively beautiful and practical lay-out of accommodation all under
one roof offers an amazing opportunity for a visionary enterprise. We
could have an Arts hub that connects with Education – the two could be
working hand-in-hand in the same building. There could be
artists-in-residence, a resident theatre company/ies, resident chamber
orchestra, etc. – the possibilities are legion. But instead, our capital
city's councillors, in their infinite wisdom, are going to hand it over
to ubiquitous, utterly superfluous commercialism. It would do no harm to
lobby MSPs and the Minister for Culture, Fiona Hyslop (email: and the Minister for
Education, Michael Russell (e-mail:
I attended a major European theatre meeting in Glasgow last month
(IETM), and it was interesting to hear about how many theatre, dance and
arts organisations other European countries have per head of population
- we are not well-endowed in Scotland, nor indeed in Britain, when one
makes such comparisons.
All best