Gem rescued

Music centre backed for former Royal High School

Plans for the building will see it become a major music centre

One of Scotland’s long-neglected architectural gems is poised to be given a new lease of life just in time to save it from permanent ruin.

Plans to turn Edinburgh’s former Royal High School, overlooking the city from Calton Hill, into a new National Centre for Music, have won the support of the council.

Officials are recommending approval of a bid for a long lease on the building from the Royal High School Preservation Trust.

The proposal – backed by violinist Nicola Benedetti – has now been expanded to a National Centre for Music, including a new public garden, visitor centre, gallery and cafe.

A new entrance is planned

Funding of £55 million for the project has been pledged by Scotland’s biggest arts philanthropist Carol Grigor, who is also backing the planned new concert hall off St Andrew Square.

The Thomas Hamilton-designed building has occupied the site since 1829 but has not been in full-time use for more than half a century, having been rejected as a home for the reconvened Scottish parliament.

Plans to turn it into a five-star hotel were thrown out last October by the Scottish Government, despite the city’s marketing and tourism leaders saying it would have further raised Edinburgh’s global pulling power.

The council invited bidders to submit development proposals and two bids were received – one for the new National Centre for Music, the other for a care village. But officials said the care village proposal was less detailed and had limited funding in place.


Nicola Benedetti is backing the project (pic: Terry Murden)

The trust said under its plans, St Mary’s Music School would have its own sensitively designed building, situated to the east of the site, comprising teaching rooms and residential spaces for boarders.

It plans three public performance spaces, including the refurbished Assembly Hall. A new multi-functional hub in the West Pavilion would house the café, gallery and visitor centre.

A decision on the lease is due to be taken by the council’s finance committee on Thursday.

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