Assembly Rooms and Stand make move as George Street to be half-pedestrianised year round
By Thom Dibdin
St Andrew Square will be used as an official part of the Fringe for the first time this August, as Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions puts three venues into the area as part of the Assembly Rooms Fringe.
The move comes as the pedestrianisation experiment on George Street moves into a one-side only configuration, meaning that there will now be no room outside the Assembly Rooms for the Famous Spiegeltent which has taken residence there for the last two fringes.
The Famous Spiegeltent will instead be in St Andrew Square, together with a 150 seat Mongolian yurt housing “The Stand in the Square” and a free stage, built at the base of the central column, featuring world and acoustic music.
The announcement was made at the launch of the Assembly Rooms fringe programme, which includes five productions from Edinburgh-based theatre companies amidst a strong and broad-ranging programme.
Assembly Rooms Fringe Director, Tommy Sheppard, who also runs the Stand, revealed to Æ that he has long harboured ambitions to put a venue in St Andrew Square.
He said: “In 2007 we tried to put a proposal in, which never went anywhere. Seven years later, we have finally got there, by necessity being the mother of invention.”
The day-to-day running of St Andrew Square is done by Essential Edinburgh on behalf of the City Council, who in turn manage it on behalf of the local owners on a 50 year lease.
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh told Æ: “It is written into the lease that St Andrews Square can be used – indeed should be used – for festival and cultural activities. And this is clearly one of those and I think everyone will be very happy.”
Neal also revealed that plans to pedestrianise George Street during the fringe, will be extended year round. The plan is to pedestrianise one side of the road only, leaving parking spaces in the middle of the street and allowing traffic to flow on the other side.
The two blocks between St Andrew Square and Frederick Street will be pedestrianised on the south (westward-flowing) side. The two blocks between Frederick Street and Charlotte Square will be pedestrianised on the north (eastward-flowing) side.
The pedestrianisation will not continue across the roundabouts at Hanover Street and Castle Street. Italian designed marquees will be placed in front of the venues along the street to give shelter from the elements.
Andy Neal said: “The roads will be blocked from June 16. That is when a lot of the development work will be put in place and we are hoping by the first or certainly the second week in July that the street will be up and running and everyone will be able to experience it. It will stay in place probably until after the festival 2015.”
In terms of the Assembly Rooms itself, the new arrangement will reduce the outdoor terrace on George Street, although Tommy Sheppard said the remaining space will be enough to provide the functionality needed in terms of operating the venue.
Sheppard said: “It is enough to give us a big outdoor crush hall in effect, and a queuing area and a box office. It will have a refreshment area as well. What it won’t be is the event it was last year, where it had its own dynamic outside. This year I think it will be very much part of the building; it will be the outdoor terrace for the Assembly Rooms.
“Customers will be delighted to know that they will be able to take a drink in and out of the building, which they haven’t been able to do before. So maybe from a customer service point of view there are aspects of it which will actually feel better, but it won’t be as spectacular as it was last year.”
The line up of theatre shows in the AR Fringe programme includes the return of Edinburgh-based Craft Theatre Company with fringe hit And They Played Shang-A-Lang, a romp through growing up as an adolescent in 70s Edinburgh. Captivate Drama bring two shows, a musical version of Macbeth for kids Brave Macbeth and the fringe premiere of hit musical Sunshine on Leith.
Edinburgh-based Keir McAllister presents A Split Decision, directed by Gowan Calder, a new satirical comedy examining “a dysfunctional relationship facing a decision that will change the future for ever”. Stellar Quines and Lung Ha’s Theatre Companies combine with the Finnish National Theatre to bring 13 Sunken Years, a Finnish play about a girl trying to make sense of her life when her mother disappears.
In a strong programme, also of particular Edinburgh interest will be Lucy Porter’s new play The Fair Intellectual Club, an Edinburgh-based true story of teenage love, friendship and betrayal set at the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Full details of the Assembly Rooms fringe programme will be available on the website www.arfringe.com from Thursday.