The curtain rises on a £1.7m grant to the King's Theatre

The grande dame of Scottish theatreland, The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, is to benefit from a grant of £1,726,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards a major redevelopment and renovation of the building and its facilities.

Originally built as a variety theatre and with a tradition of pantomime stretching back over 100 years, the A-listed King’s Theatre will be revitalised to create a fully-accessible, fit-for-purpose theatre and community hub over a period of twenty months from September 2022.

The King’s Theatre is one of only fifteen operational A-Listed theatres in the UK, and one of six in Scotland. Holding the highest grading awarded by the Theatres Trust, the Edwardian building has both national and international architectural significance. Built in 1905/6, it is the last surviving design of James Davidson and J.D Swanston.

The King’s has played a vital role in Edinburgh’s cultural life for over a hundred years, been a principal venue for the Edinburgh International Festival since the 1940’s and home to local amateur performing companies for over fifty years. The King’s Pantomime is a popular Edinburgh tradition drawing an audience of around 90,000 people annually, making it Scotland’s largest panto.

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L-R Fiona Gibson, CEO of Capital Theatres, Grant Stott, King’s Theatre Ambassador and star of the King’s Panto, Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland NLHF. Pictured prior to the panto ended its run due to COVID restrictions. Photo Greg Macvean.

Investment from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will be directed towards specific heritage and benefit public parts of the overall project. The #Everyone's Theatre - Telling the Story project will concentrate on repairing, protecting and enhancing the condition and sustainability of the building and its special heritage features, making the social and cultural heritage of the King’s available through an interpretive heritage experience and digital People’s Archive. It will also involve a wider range of people with the theatre’s heritage by delivering a programme of community heritage engagement activities to 8,000 people, and establish the King’s Theatre as a local asset and community hub in the Tollcross area and beyond. 

It will deliver improved accessibility to the venue for all, better facilities for users of the building, including actors and staff, with an improved auditorium space and theatrical production facility. There will also be provision of more functional spaces within the building to allow increased activity and usage of the venue for a variety of projects. Significant environmental improvements will be made to take the theatre towards its 2030 zero carbon target.

Grant Stott, King’s Theatre Patron, currently starring in the legendary King’s Panto said

"I’ve been coming to the King’s since I was wee and have also had the very great privilege of appearing on its stage. I’m delighted that the NLHF have recognised the importance of the building in Edinburgh and Scotland’s cultural life and their funding will ensure it keeps that special status. You only had to listen to the audience reaction at the end of the panto this Christmas to know how much local people love the King’s, so it’s fitting that their stories will be told as part of the redevelopment process. This funding is a real boost and added to our public fundraising efforts will take us closer to our magic total needed for the transformation.”

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The reimagined King's Theatre
 Fiona Gibson said:

"This award demonstrates the faith NLHF has in our vision to make the King's Theatre a thriving community hub by day, as well as a world class performance venue by night. This funding will allow us to be a catalyst for change, making connections with the people of Tollcross and greater Edinburgh, whilst telling the story of the social and cultural heritage of the King's right inside our own community.

"We will protect, enhance and safeguard this beautiful historic building, ensuring it's a local asset for generations to come.  We'll also improve access, not only to the theatre itself, but to its history. At the heart of this history are the people, from stars of the stage to local supporters, all of whom have made it such a lively venue and continue to do so."

Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland, the National Lottery Heritage Fund

"We are excited to be involved in this project that will help secure the King’s Theatre, a gem of Scottish theatre heritage in the heart of the country’s capital. Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, this historic venue will now be opened up to the wider community.

“This project will not only be good for Scotland and Edinburgh, but will be an anchor venue for the Edinburgh International Festival. Improved access will benefit local residents as will the introduction of a daytime offer, establishing the theatre as a thriving community asset.”

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The reimagined King's Theatre
The City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Convener, Donald Wilson said:

“The King's has been a cherished Edinburgh theatre for over a century, showcasing the best in touring drama, talented community and non-professional groups and of course the best in pantomime, as well as bringing all kinds of theatre experiences to the city from all over the country. The grant is fantastic news and will go some way in supporting the redevelopment ambitions and future of the 'Grand Old Lady of Leven Street’.”

The capital works for the theatre will involve a complete package of £25 million, with funding already secured from Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council, and now the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and will be added to the generous donations from individuals, grants from trusts and foundations, support from companies and Capital Theatres’ own contribution from ticket income.

This ambitious and strategic twenty-month construction project will restore and revitalise the King's. The historic Art Noveau-inspired theatre is in poor condition internally. The restoration works will repair historic fabric, reduce the environmental impact of the building, remove inappropriate 1950’s coverings and additions and transform physical access with a Changing Places toilet and two front-of-house lifts, ramps and wheelchair spaces.

Front-of-house areas will become flexible function spaces and a flexible use creative engagement-studio, with capacity for 60 people, will support community-engagement activities.

The archive will be catalogued and transferred to Edinburgh City Archives where it will be the starting point for the People’s Archive.

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