Edinburgh revives plans to revamp historic Ross Bandstand venue in Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh is set to revive plans for a long-awaited overhaul of its historic concert venue in Princes Street Gardens.
City council chiefs are in talks with Edinburgh-based architects over how to revive the Ross Bandstand beneath Edinburgh Castle. It is hoped to allow more public events to be staged throughout the year, as well as open up daily access to the concrete bowl in front of the 89-year-old building.
Public access is only possible for a handful of events due to the poor condition of the bandstand, which was declared “no longer fit for purpose” by the council in 2016. A temporary stage needs to be built to accommodate large-scale events during the Edinburgh International Festival and the city’s Hogmanay celebrations.
Council leader Cammy Day has suggested some of the proceeds of its planned visitor levy could help ensure the bandstand realises its potential as “a wonderful community resource all year round”.
The prospect of a revamped bandstand has emerged seven years after proposals for a £25 million open-air arena, performance ‘pavilion’ and visitor centre won a council-backed international design competition.
The “Quaich Project” was instigated by a charitable trust created by philanthropist and hotelier Norman Springford. He pledged £5m towards the venture, but ran into controversy over the proposed scale of development in the gardens.
Design work and fundraising was halted in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid pandemic and the project was put into “hibernation” the following year.
However, the Leith-based Groves-Raines Architects Studio, which was part of the team that won the 2017 design competition, has been in talks with the council over the future of the bandstand and the gardens.
Director Gunnar Groves-Raines said: “My ongoing interest is really as an Edinburgh citizen, and out of concern for the bandstand and the gardens. There were lots of different opinions on the original brief from the council and the proposals that came forward. A lot of what was said was very valid.
“Rightly or wrongly, people were concerned about the potential for over-development and a perception of over-commercialisation of the gardens. The benefit of a pause in the project has allowed me to think about what the gardens should be used for in a post-Covid world where public spaces are so crucial and also think about whether there is an opportunity to restart the conversation, recognise that legitimate concerns were raised, and look at the things that really need to happen and what could happen, that everybody could get behind.”
Cllr Day said: “The previous project for a new Ross Bandstand is not being progressed. But there are discussions underway about whether the existing bandstand can be refurbished and modernised to sustain it for the long term, and whether there is a different model that won’t cost as much as the previous project, which will ensure the bandstand is still a successful venue which can also accommodate events throughout the year.
“It’s an iconic venue, which we just don’t use enough at the moment.”
Mr Groves-Raines added: “The retention of the existing bandstand might be a viable option with a bit of care and repair. The closed-off nature of the auditorium space is not great for the gardens. It would be great to open that up, so that it is not an obstacle.
“We’re trying to play our part to see if there is an opportunity to carry something positive forward from all the work that was done, but is a bit more measured, perhaps. I'd love to see something happen.”
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