Æ News – Roxy Art House Closes

Nov 5 2010 | By More

Charity’s slide into administration forces long-running arts venue to close overnight

The Roxy Art House on Roxburgh Place, formerly known as Lady Glenorchy’s Church and the Roxburgh Halls

By Thom Dibdin

The Roxy Art House has closed after its owners the Edinburgh University Settlement went into administration on Wednesday October 27.

The Roxy is one of three theatre venues that were owned by the EUS, but the only one that was run by EUS staff. The charity also owned the GRV on Guthrie Street and the Bristo Church, home to the Forest Cafe on Bristo Place. All three venues were put up for sale by the EUS in October, with the Roxy attracting a price-tag of £1.1 million as a “development opportunity”.

The future of the GRV, which has a price-tag of £750,000 with vacant possession, is unclear. Siege Perilous are booked in to be producing Burke: The Play at the venue in the week beginning 15 November. It was recently used by Tightlaced Theatre for their production of The Dress Affair in early September.

Bristo Church has a price-tag of £950,000, also as a “development opportunity”, however the Forest Cafe collective has started a campaign to raise funds to buy the building themselves. As the home to the award-winning Forest Fringe during August, this is the most high-profile of the three venues.

The closure of the Roxy came just after the highly successful Hidden Door Festival, which ran at the Roxy over the weekend 23-25 October. It housed the first official event by Creative Scotland, the new Scottish arts body, in July. Ironically, the venue was just about to stage a Death Weekend which was billed as a “celebration of death on halloween weekend.” In the event, it was the venue’s own death which was marked, as the weekend’s final party was transferred to the Forest Cafe.

The first theatre production affected by the closure is the ThreeMile Theatre Company‘s production of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, which was due to play at the venue on the 9th and 10th of November. Sales of tickets through the Brown Paper Tickets website have been suspended, but all existing tickets will be honoured at the new venue of the Adam House Theatre on the same dates but at the slightly later time of 7.30pm.

The Roxy is a B-listed building which was bought by the EUS just a year ago, and the current management team was put into place in January.

“When the present Artistic Director took over in January he did so with a clear aim – to make the Roxy Art House the most successful, forward thinking multi-arts space in Edinburgh and one of the most important in the country” according to a press release put out by the Roxy staff after the announcement of the closure.

“Looking back over the past 10 months and seeing how far we have come, and how much distance we have covered in trying to realise that goal, we feel (justifiably we hope) proud. And, as much fun as it has been, we would like to stress that we always looked at the Roxy as a project that needed to be commercially viable – which it was. We as a group of people will be taking that mentality forward. We are in a strong position. We have learned much over the past 10 months. We’ve met some incredible people. It is our hope that this knowledge and our new friends will get us over this bump in the road.”

The building was erected as a relief chapel in 1809 and altered to seat a congregation of 900 in 1814, according to Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant. Grant points out that: “Externally it has no architectural pretension; but many may remember it as the meeting-place of the “Convocation” which preceded the ever-memorable secession in 1843″. Following these events it remained unused until it was taken over by the congregation of Lady Glenorchy’s Church, under which name the building was known until 1972.

The building first became a Fringe venue after it was bought by Edinburgh University in 1972, when it became known as the Roxburgh Halls. For several years it was run by the Pleasance, as the Pleasance Over the Road

The Roxburgh Halls were bought by Edinburgh businessman Michael Borland’s Hope 16 trust from Edinburgh University after the Fringe in 2002, when it was first set up as an independent art house. At the 2003 Fringe it was run as part of Rocket Venues, in association with Richard Demarco’s European Art Foundation.

During this time, there were plans to turn the building into a £2 Million Art Centre to house Demarco’s vast photographic archive, of over 700,000 images detailing the history of the Fringe. The project got so as employing Edinburgh architect Malcolm Fraser to up plans for the building.

Hope 16 put the building up for sale in 2006, amidst fears that it would be bought by a developer and turned into flats.


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