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Edinburgh venue to be temporarily reopened to stimulate local economy

Dec 23, 2008 | Blog

A famous Edinburgh venue is to be re-opened in a bid to stimulate the local economy, although the opening is only planned to be temporary, reports the Edinburgh Evening News.

Usher Hall, one of the biggest event venues and concert halls in Edinburgh, will be reopened at a substantial cost in the spring of next year in advance of building refurbishment being completed on the historic sites. However, because the opening of the site will be a couple of months before full refurbishment has been completed, the event venue will only be opened for four events.

The wider economy is being seen as a good reason for justifying the expense of an early opening. A Rotarian conference is due to take place in the hall in April, which is likely to stimulate the local community through an influx of business tourists. With the wider economic crisis looking set to dominate headlines for months to come, there has been the prevailing feeling that all opportunities to feed revenue to local businesses must be seized with both arms.

There is a reasonable case against reopening, due to the costs involved. As the conference venue itself is in the midst of refurbishment, around £150,000 will have to be spent just to make the hall safe for the four events planned for the spring. The Rotarians conference is the first such event, and this is due to be followed by two separate performances from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra a few weeks later in May and then a performance by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as well.

Although the £150,000 cost on safety elements is the only direct expenditure involved, another £450,000 will be lost on the delay to the main construction, which was originally supposed to be completed in the summer.

Sue Stuart, chief executive of Edinburgh Convention Bureau, cited defiance of the turbulent financial climate in support of the decision to reopen: "It's important, particularly at this time of economic difficulty, that we maintain our reputation as a world class conference destination and send out a strong message that Edinburgh is prepared to go out of its way to accommodate them."

Ms Stewart went on to say that the Rotarian conference is expected to deliver over £2 million of revenue to the local economy and as such justifies the expense of early reopening. Beyond that, however, she argued that opening up Usher Hall for just a few days signalled to the rest of the country, and indeed the world that Edinburgh remained "open for business" in the face of the worst economic crisis for a generation.

When Usher Hall is fully completed, towards the middle of next year, the cost of refurbishments will have exceeded £20 million, and local authorities will be hoping that the events venue resumes its crucial role in keeping the economy of the Scottish capital above water during continuing harsh times.

The Scotsman reports that tickets for live music events in Edinburgh are increasing, despite the current economic turbulence.

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