Peter Schaufuss to buy St Stephen’s
Danish choreographer Peter Schaufuss has reportedly agreed to buy long-time fringe venue St Stephen’s from its current owner, Leslie Benzies, the president of games company Rockstar North.
The A-listed Playfair church has been run as a community resource and venue by the Benzies Foundation since Benzies bought it from the Church of Scotland in July 2014. It had been on the market for offers over £500,000.
The purchase was described by Benzies at the time as “an entirely philanthropic purchase” which would “ensure the long-term viability of the property as a community centre that benefits all”.
St Stephen’s on the edge of Stockbridge at the north of the New Town has been operated as a venue during the fringe venue for more than 27 years. The likes of the Traverse, Aurora Nova and Northern Stage running it on behalf of the Church of Scotland.
Although it was dark for the August of 2014, just after Benzies’ purchase, it returned as a fringe venue in 2015 and 2016 when first Magnum Venues and then C Venues took it on.
Outside the fringe, the Benzies Foundation has allowed it to be used as a rehearsal space for large amateur musicals companies and has hosted a production in the main upstairs hall.
According to a report in the Herald on Tuesday 4 April 2017, Schaufuss is planning to turn the main upstairs venue into a year-round space for dance with a theatre in the round.
many exciting uses
The Herald reports Schaufuss as saying: “I plan to make the Great Hall a world-class theatre, one that will attract productions from leading companies from around the world, while the ground floor level and basement area lends itself to many exciting uses moving forward both cultural and community based.
“I have consulted with many people and public organisations in Edinburgh and I am happy to say that all share my enthusiasm, not least because they want to ensure that Saint Stephen’s will continue to hold its place in the affections of all who know it, but also because we can all see how well suited it is to become one of the capital’s major centres of artistic excellence.
“Saint Stephen’s has latterly been used as a community and artistic centre and it is my wish to continue the building’s evolution from its former use as a public and community venue under the ownership of The Benzies Foundation.”
St Stephen’s is a grade A listed building. It was designed by William Playfair and completed in 1828 as the St. Stephen’s Parish Church. The interior was reconfigured in 1956 and it became the St. Stephen’s Centre in 1992.