Designing a New Venue - Part 1

By Giles Moss on April 1st

When we look for places to build new theatres, our foremost concern is about the location. Our existing venues are either all located around the central crossroads of the Royal Mile and North Bridge, or based around the Surgeons’ Quarter complex on Nicolson Street. So when we find out that buildings close by - maybe that even have doors off existing complexes - are being refurbished, we’re naturally interested to see what opportunities lie within. It’s true that we can’t walk past newly-erected scaffolding in central Edinburgh without having at least a fleeting thought about operating new venues inside.

By no coincidence, that’s just happened again: Our complex at theSpace @ Surgeons’ Hall has grown a new wing in the form of the University of Edinburgh’s Lister Building - which conveniently has a door right off the courtyard area. So not only is it ‘close’, it’s literally next door. Our list of new, exciting rooms includes a large lecture theatre with permanent raked seating (and places to write notes!) and two smaller, squarer rooms ideal for our traditional style of theatre. There is an additional room for supporting functions.

We are therefore delighted to announce we’ve got the go-ahead to expand into two brand-new theatres, and have a new home for our Press Office to boot!

We’ve been doing this long enough to know what we need to install for a successful Fringe venue. It needs theatres (duh), some storage space for props, somewhere for a box office perhaps... To kick the process off we receive building layout plans from the building owners which give us the first inkling of what we can do with a space. We know where the fire exits go, what power supplies are available, that kind of thing, but not the detail of where we can put lighting stands or where the stage needs to be.

We’ve already started warming our hire kit suppliers up to the notion that we’ll need yet more kit this year. Another two PA systems, countless metres of truss, drapes, lighting and cabling. They’re champing at the bit to get to work on quotes for us - and truthfully this goes beyond their profit line, they’ve worked with us for long enough that some of our Fringe ethos has rubbed off on them and they genuinely enjoy helping us out in our Fringe endeavours.

The Production Team isn’t based in Edinburgh, so to help us in our initial plans we sent an envoy armed with a camera and a tape measure to the Lister building in October. Working off the resulting photos and measurements we got a great first impression of the spaces, enough so Charles could start talking to companies about what we have to offer. We started to kick some ideas around over a beer or two in January, but there’s no substitute for a proper recce. Fortunately, the Senior Production Team has a trip to Edinburgh each February to do just this...