'Last chance saloon' for Edinburgh theatre amid £8.9m funding gap

The theatre has 35 days to secure a funding gap of £8.9m after losing out on Levelling Up Funding from the UK Government.

Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre has 35 days to secure £8.9m funding gap or face closure STV News

Edinburgh’s popular King’s Theatre has announced it has 35 days to secure funding or risk closing its doors.

After losing out on Levelling Up Funding from the UK Government, the theatre, which has entertained audiences for over 100 years, said it is facing a “last chance saloon” to stay open.

The theatre closed in August 2022 in preparation for a development project with £26m fundraised by charity Capital Theatres who currently run the venue.

The works were described as “so exciting” by the charity in January 2022 and promised to create a “magical place for audiences to come”.

However, a funding gap of over £8.9m now remains before the work can be completed, which Capital Theatres say is a result of inflation and changing trade agreements.

If the money is not secured within the next 35 days, before the building is due to be signed over to the contractors, Capital Theatres say spiralling costs could result in the theatre closing for good.

The King's Theatre closed for refurbishment last year.Google Maps

Capital Theatres say they are working with the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the UK Government to prevent closure but are calling on the public bodies to provide further funding.

Fiona Gibson, CEO of Capital Theatres said: “This really is the last chance saloon for the King’s. 

“It’s been a long road planning and fundraising for the capital redevelopment of the King’s Theatre to turn it into both a thriving community hub, fully accessible to audiences and performers, and a world-class venue while maintaining its history and heritage.

“We’ve examined our options and we cannot reduce the project cost any further by value engineering and to delay the redevelopment could lead to even higher costs in the long term, putting the entire project at risk. If the money is not found in the next few weeks, the last opportunity for us to greenlight the project, the King’s could close its doors forever.”

She added: “We know what a difficult time this is to be asking for additional funding with so much financial need in every area of civic life, but as custodians of this beloved theatre, we have to fight for its survival.  

“From the moment the funding gap emerged we have been in close contact and working with key funders including the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council, and the UK Government. We need their support to deliver this transformative redevelopment for Tollcross, Edinburgh, and Scottish Theatre, ensuring the King’s Theatre is there for generations to come.”

Culture and communities convener for the City of Edinburgh Council Val Walker said: “While we’re disappointed not to have been successful in this round of the Levelling Up fund, we look forward to continuing dialogue and exploring any opportunities open to help secure the future of the Kings Theatre.”

The venue is recognised as a major cultural hub for the city with many high-profile performers supporting its plea for funds.

Actor Brian Cox, an honorary patron of the King’s, described the theatre as “vital to the Scottish theatre ecology”.

He said: “The King’s is a key touring venue which brings a variety of genres to the central belt; not to mention a source of comfort and joy in panto season. Without the planned transformational redevelopment improving access, preserving heritage and opening the building up to the community, the King’s will close its doors forever.

Brian Cox in an honorary patron of the theatre.STV News

“After a hugely successful fundraising effort to reach the original budgeted cost of £26m, we cannot let the rising costs due to inflation, trade agreements, and global conflict put the project in peril. We must save the King’s for future generations.”

Fergus Linehan, former director of the Edinburgh International Festival said: “There wouldn’t be an International Festival if there wasn’t a King’s Theatre, because it is here that so many of the signature moments of the Festival have taken place.

“We want to make sure that our premier theatre space in the city is appropriate for the way theatre, dance and opera tours now, and ensure they don’t leapfrog over Edinburgh. As a city and a country we must invest in The King’s. Any responsible cultural sector must both make sure the next season is coming, but also to think ten, 20 years down the line to ensure that what we’ve enjoyed will still be there in the future.”

There has also been cross-party political support for the theatre’s survival.

SNP MP for Edinburgh East Tommy Sheppard said: “It’s a real nightmare to think that this place might close and be turned into some kind of yuppie flats which is the last thing we need, and all this wonderful facility that’s been here for so many decades, and could be here for so many decades more, would be lost. We can’t lose it.”

Scottish Labour MSP for Lothian, Sarah Boyack said: We cannot contemplate the loss of the King’s, the refurbishment has to go ahead so it’s accessible, it’s brought to life and future generations and visitors to Edinburgh can enjoy the King’s going forward.”

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