Usher Hall seating to Church Hill

Apr 16 2015 | By More

Church Hill Theatre refurb nears completion

The Church Hill Theatre is to get up-cycled Usher Hall seating this summer as part of a £220,000 refurbishment and upgrade to Edinburgh’s community venue.

The existing seating in the auditorium will be replaced by seating taken from the stalls of the Usher Hall when it is refurbished in July. Capacity of the Church Hill will remain at 353.

The front entrance to the Church HIll Theatre. Photo Thom Dibdin

The front entrance to the Church HIll Theatre. Photo Thom Dibdin

The Church Hill Theatre is currently undergoing full roof and external stonework repairs which are due to be completed at the end of this month. Inside, the dressing rooms have been fully redecorated, with new lighting and flooring installed.

Public areas, such as the foyer, toilets and external landscape have also been improved, with the addition of picnic benches to the front and north rear gardens for the summer months.

All internal work is being carried out when the theatre is dark, to minimise disruption to the amateur companies which use it.

The council has stated that following the investment programme in the venue, the hire fees have been increased by 2% for 2015/16, after having been frozen for three years.

The refurbishment comes ahead of the theatre’s fiftieth anniversary. Previously the Morningside High Church, it was bought by the Edinburgh City Corporation in 1963 and opened as a theatre on 25 September 1965 with a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

amateur companies

The theatre was bought for use by Edinburgh’s amateur companies after the University decided that the Pleasance Little Theatre, on which the companies had previously relied, was needed for its own uses.

The Church Hill's seating as it is at present. Photo CEC

The Church Hill’s seating as it is at present. Photo CEC

Commenting on the refurbishment, Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Breathing new life into the Church Hill Theatre has long been a shared ambition for both the community and the Council.

“The refurbishment is a big step forward for the theatre as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary year and the works being carried out will improve the experience of both audience members and performers. By up-cycling unused chairs and materials from other venues like the Usher Hall, the auditorium’s timeless theatrical look and feel will be retained.”

The Church Hill is seen as a sister venue to Assembly Rooms and is managed for the council by the same team.

Shona Clelland, general manager added: “The Church Hill Theatre is a historic landmark in Morningside, and has an established reputation as one of Scotland’s leading non-professional theatres. We therefore felt that as some essential maintenance work needed to be done, it was an ideal opportunity to give the building some proper attention rather than just doing the bare minimum.

“The building means a lot to the local community, and it’s fantastic to see it getting the makeover it deserves, ready for its fiftieth anniversary celebrations later this year.”

The first beneficiaries of the seat up-cycling will be the American High School Theatre Festival, which takes over the theatre for the whole of the fringe.

A news feature about the history of the Church Hill Theatre, based on research by Gordon Braidwood, is here:


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