Threat to King’s refurb

Aug 5 2020 | By More

“Double Jeopardy” for King’s over refurbishment funds

Money collected by Capital Theatres and allocated for the proposed £25million refurbishment of the King’s Theatre has, ironically, put the future of the theatre in doubt.

The refurbishment project is planned for the King’s in order to keep it operable as a theatre. However, Capital Theatres new CEO Fiona Gibson has told Æ that the £2.6 million it has raised and banked in readiness for the project means that it can’t access emergency pandemic funds.

If it has to use that money for running costs then the refurbishment will be in doubt she says and, if the refurb can not go ahead, there will be doubts over the renewal of King’s Theatre lease in 2023.

King’s facade, latest proposed design. Bennets Associates May 2020

Gibson told Æ: “We had been building up a fund to do the King’s redevelopment project commencing in September 2021. We have already announced we are going to move that to September 2022 on the basis of Covid and everything else.

“But we are having to eat into that fund now in order to sustain business as usual and keep the staff on. In the meantime, the emergency funding we are applying for, like all the other theatres, has clauses around being insolvent – and we are not insolvent because we have the fund that we had been building for the King’s project.”

match funding

Gibson calculates that Capital Theatres will have used £1million of the fund by March. The loss of those funds will jeopardise the match funding already pledged by the likes of the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the project.

She adds: “The lease [on the King’s] is up in July 2023. It is an Edinburgh Council owned building and it will be a significant decision for our board whether to renew the lease if we can’t do the refurbishment project, because the work needs to be done for it to be an operable theatre.”

Long Section cut-away. Bennets Associates May 2020

One way to help offset the problem would be to bring the project forward again. Capital Theatres has kept its planning application going during lockdown and, if consent is given, the refurbishment will be a “shovel ready” project.

Gibson is clear that access to emergency funds is the only real way forward.

She said: “The way out is for us to be included in the emergency funding opportunity, so that we can keep the staff, keep the organisation going without dipping into the fund for the King’s project. That is the way out of it.”

The main objective of Capital Theatres is to reopen and get people back in the theatre as soon as is safe. Gibson is concerned that producers might not have the time to make work that is able to tour as soon as theatres are open, but she does provide a chink of light for pantomime fans.

Small scale panto

This year’s pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, has been rescheduled to 2021, but she revealed that Capital Theatres is in early discussions with panto producers Qdos over a smaller scale work – either in the unlikely event of a vaccine being found before Christmas or, more likely, at Easter time.

Gibson said: “We wouldn’t do Sleeping Beauty, because we are going to keep that for 2021, but if there is something else we can do on a smaller scale, that requires less rehearsals and less set design and so on, then we would look at that. We are in very early discussions with Qdos about whether that might be an option.”


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