Plan for ex-school

Benedetti and Dunard in music plan for former Royal High

The proposed music centre would inclue new gardens and a broadening of the pedestrian area (image: Richard Murphy architects)

Violinist Nicola Benedetti is supporting a plan to turn the near-derelict former Royal High School in Edinburgh into a National Centre for Music.

Scotland’s biggest arts philanthropist Carol Grigor has pledged £55 million to secure the future of the A-listed building on Calton Hill which has been plagued by failed projects to give a new purpose.

Ms Benedetti and Ms Grigor’s Dunard Trust – which is behind the planned new concert hall off St Andrew Square – are now working together on the project.

The plan follows the rejection of a controversial design to turn the A-listed building into a luxury hotel.

New terracing is included in a general greening of the site

Ms Grigor’s trust has pledged £45 million to pay for all restoration and redevelopment works at the site, as well as another £10 million to create an endowment fund for the centre’s future maintenance and running costs.

Part of its grounds will be transformed into a new public garden, while the original western pavilion at the site will become home to a visitor centre, gallery and cafe.

Public events at the new National Centre for Music are expected to be jointly programmed with the Dunard Centre.

A new entrance would be created

Ms Benedetti’s own foundation, which puts on orchestra-based workshops for young people and teachers, is expected to play a key role in the running of the National Centre for Music.

St Mary’s Music School, which is seeking to “acquire” the building, had been backed by the city’s main heritage bodies.

Ms Benedetti said: “The National Centre for Music presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to enrich the cultural life of Scotland and to serve as a beacon of true 21st century music education for the world to see.

“Thanks to the generosity and vision of Carol and the Dunard Fund, we have the means, as well as the collective will and dedication from all walks of Scottish life, to realise a revolutionary vision.

“The National Centre for Music will be a warm and welcoming place for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, where people can come together and be uplifted through participation in and appreciation of music.

Nicola Benedetti: partner (pi: Terry Murden)

“It will be home to a comprehensive celebration of musical traditions and interests from around the world and will embrace a diverse range of teachers, ideologies, pedagogies, students, pupils and audiences.”

Joanna Baker executive director of Impact Scotland, the charitable trust pursuing plans for the £75 million Dunard Centre concert hall, said: “The National Centre for Music is genuinely world-class in ambition, excellence and access and allows Edinburgh to continue to assert itself on the world stage.

“We’re particularly excited that new ways of collaborating with St Mary’s Music School educationalists at the former Royal High School building also opens out very interesting possibilities and links with the Dunard Centre’s partners”.

A new main entrance and foyer is proposed as the main changes to the building which has lain largely vacant since 1968. Designed by architect Thomas Hamilton, the reconfigured former school will have a concert capacity of about 280. Two other spaces for public performances will be created.

In July the city council invited bids for the building after twice rejecting attempts by global hotel chain Rosewood to acquire the property.

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