A Global Opportunity for a Global City

The charitable trust IMPACT Scotland and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) have developed a proposal to create a new world-class arts centre in the heart of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

The proposal is to build a facility in St Andrew Square which would be the new home of the SCO, as well as a venue for education, conferences and public engagement.

The centrepiece is a 1,000 seat auditorium, as well as a studio providing rehearsal, recital and recording space to rival the best in Europe. The new building will be immediately behind Dundas House at 36 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh. The historic Royal Bank of Scotland branch will continue to operate as a stand-alone branch.

The auditorium would meet the long-recognised need for a purpose-built, mid-sized performance venue in Edinburgh, combining excellent acoustics with access for all forms of popular music, jazz, folk, chamber and other small classical music groups as well as solo and song recitals and small dance ensembles.

The proposed new building will provide a performance, rehearsal and recording home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, a National Performing Company, and described by BBC Music Magazine as “one of the finest ensembles of its kind in the world today”.

Each August the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) which is the world’s premier arts festival, would adopt the complex as one of its principal, all-day venues for festival performances.

Throughout the year the centre would allow people from all communities the opportunity to enjoy life-enhancing cultural and educational experiences, offering the finest facilities for young musicians to perform, train and receive coaching from the SCO, other professional artists and EIF performers.

The proposed new venue will:

  • provide an excellent opportunity to build new audiences across the age groups by programming a wide range of music as well as other forms of entertainment;
  • provide community arts companies from across Scotland and further afield with improved performance space;
  • provide facilities for organisations to host events and conferences, as well as larger scale company general meetings;
  • create new restaurant, cafe and bar facilities to complement the development;

IMPACT Scotland would be responsible for oversight of constructing the new building and will manage and operate the complex.

Dunard Fund, a long-term supporter of the Arts in Scotland has committed a substantial gift. Further individual gifts have already been pledged and further fundraising will be undertaken as part of the project.

IMPACT Scotland will shortly start the process of inviting expressions of interest from architect-led design teams, as well as an acoustic expert, with the intention of making appointments early next year.

Initial discussions with the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government on possible public sector partnerships have been positive and are ongoing.

Sir Ewan Brown, who has been chairing the IMPACT Scotland Project Board said,

“I see this is a global opportunity for a global city, combining the best of the old and the new to establish a venue that will attract performers, audiences and visitors from around the world.”

Malcolm Buchanan, RBS Scotland Board Chairman, said,

“We have been a part of the fabric of Scottish life for nearly 300 years and this latest venture is a fantastic opportunity for the Royal Bank of Scotland to play a major role in supporting the arts and education in Scotland. While we will be retaining our historic branch at 36 St Andrew Square we will be assisting in the build by making available the land around the building and 35 St Andrew Square to help make this project a reality.”

Colin Buchan, Chairman of the SCO said,

“With this wonderful support from the SCO’s long-term supporter, Dunard Fund, this project provides a fantastic opportunity for the SCO to provide an open, welcoming and unforgettable audience experience in a much-needed mid-sized performance venue with stunning acoustics in the heart of Edinburgh. Not only will it provide our internationally renowned orchestra with a splendid new home, it will also enable the SCO to reach out in ways that have not been possible in the past.”

Richard Holloway, Chair of Sistema Scotland said,

“Our Big Noise orchestras, working with health, education and social services, are already transforming the lives of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and helping them to achieve their full potential. This new facility will give young people in our most deprived communities the opportunity to play alongside and be inspired by professional musicians in world-class orchestras. It will prove that, as well as delighting us, the performing arts can be a powerful instrument of social transformation. It’s a thrilling prospect.”

In welcoming the news, Fergus Linehan, the Director of EIF, said

“It is very important to the future development of the Edinburgh International Festival that all our venues are of the best international quality. We would adopt the new complex not just for our much loved morning concerts but as one of our principal, all-day performance venues. It would also deliver creative learning and participatory opportunities, releasing individual potential and enabling local residents, as well as visitors, to share in the city's remarkable artistic achievements”.

A spokesperson for Dunard Fund said,

"Edinburgh has long awaited an iconic, acoustically superb mid-sized performance hall and we are proud to participate in this exciting project. The new venue would not only benefit the city’s Festivals and the SCO, but would also be a magnet for international touring groups representing all aspects of the performing arts.”