Assembly Move from New Town Edinburgh HomeDate: 24 January 2011
One of the Edinburgh Fringe's biggest venue operators, Assembly Theatre, is to consolidate its operation and move from the New Town venue it has occupied for 30 years following the approval Edinburgh City Council's plans to refurbish the Assembly Room.
In a move which venue boss William Burdett Coutts told The Scotsman newspaper was "long-term" Assembly will no longer operate from George Street and instead present work from a collection of venues around the Old Town's George Square.
Although full details for the spaces are still to be released, The Scotsman reports Burdett Coutts plans to place two Spiegeltents with seating for 450 and 200 people in George Square Gardens as well as operating the 480-seat George Square Theatre and two other 200 capacity spaces.
Faced with the redevelopment of their George Street home, Assembly Theatre mounted an online campaign, with endorsement from a number of the venue's high profile alumni including Jo Brand, Phil Jupitus, Johnny Vegas, Fred MacAuley and Kevin Bridges. The company also collected almost 8,000 signatures on an online petition against the plans.
The redevelopment, which was recently passed by Edinburgh City Council's Development Management Sub-Committee seeks to restore the venue's ballroom and music hall providing "revitalised events spaces" and "top level facilities all year round". The Council also hopes the restored venue will provide facilities for use during the summer festivals, however Assembly Theatre and campaigners argue that the conversion of ground level bar and entertainment spaces into cafe and retail units make the site unworkable.
Assembly's move to the Old Town sees them join a number of Edinburgh's larger venue chains, with much of the Fringe now taking place in buildings and sites owned by Edinburgh University. George Square Gardens has played host to a number of Fringe venues, with Australian promoters The Famous Spiegeltent and Underbelly's Hullabaloo both occupying the site in recent years.
Although Assembly may be making the move to Edinburgh's Southside, many New Town venues were quick to remind Fringe theatregoers that the Festival spirit will still stretch north of Princes Street this August.
Tim Hawkins former general manager of the Fringe Society who now operates ReMarkable Arts at Hill Street Theatre and West End church St George’s West said of venues in the New Town, including Universal Arts and The Stand Comedy Club, "we’re in good company on this side of town, there’s plenty going on."
Artistic director of the Traverse Theatre Dominic Hill added: "As a theatre that sits neither in the Old Town or New Town, it’s about the quality of the work that we present and produce. I hope that this is what attracts people here. We have strong connections with all the different festivals in August and are very aware of the exciting work that goes on all around the city."