Archive for December, 2015

Arts and Culture at the Royal High School Hotel

Just a few of the 40+ arts organisations David Orr has worked with

Just a few of the 40+ arts organisations David Orr has worked with

One of the unfortunate consequences of the ongoing saga of whether the Old Royal High School will be diminished by the hotel wings being added and if a music school would be a better choice is that an important part of the equation has been forgotten. Yes adding the hotel will take the school off the at risk register but little has been said by either side on the benefits of the well documented support Rosewood and the Urbanist Group give to the arts. 

The benefits are indeed fourfold. First of all the school will be used to showcase the best that Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer covering all artistic mediums which of course includes music. I’m told there will be at least three venues on the site from a small intimate room with 60 seats to a much larger room catering for 300+. The school will be used for exhibitions and also for the sale of the best Scotland has to offer in the arts. The school will therefore not only be saved but providing a valuable home to the artistic community.

witheredhandnewgodscoverSecondly it will be putting all of this in front of some very rich, famous and indeed influential people. I can relate any number of stories of how well connected people who have come into Avalanche have helped bands I’ve recommended one of the best being the famous American actor who loved Withered Hand so much he not only came to see Dan when he played in LA but still takes Dan’s CD with him when in a movie to see whether he can get his music into the film ! Only last month I had a young girl in from Beijing obviously one of the new wealthy Chinese middle class who came in to buy a Scottish album on vinyl as a wedding present for her brother and ended up buying every album I recommended and was so pleased with the time I spent explaining the band’s music to her she had her photo taken in the shop and could not have been more pleased. Having such a clientele literally on the doorstep will be a fantastic boost for all the arts not just music. 

rosewood logoThirdly Rosewood have a worldwide reputation from their established hotels for supporting the arts and as we all know there is a worldwide interest in Scotland so there is a synergy there that can not be underestimated. Also in these days of endless cutbacks they have very deep pockets indeed and will not skimp on promoting and sponsoring the Scottish arts. The Urbanist Group themselves are no slouches when it come to sponsoring the arts either and I would defy even the most cynical arts journalist to meet with joint founder David Orr and not acknowledge his passion.

Fourthly the school will finally be open to the public, as will of course be the hotel’s bars and restaurants, but given the school has been a public building for so long it is a tragedy that the stunning panoramic view from the school’s portico has been unavailable, an added irony with so much importance placed on the view to the school.

There is of course much more from Rosewood’s policy of supporting local businesses to their Slow Food & Living Markets and as I’ve said a lot of this has been lost in this constant talk of the hotel wings. For those of us not so precious about the views and we are all entitled to an opinion the economic benefits alone make a good case for the hotel. There may be 2,000 people prepared to sign a petition but that is a very small percentage of Edinburgh’s population and the truth is a large part of the general public are in favour just by no means as vocally.

You may quite rightfully ask why more has not been made of all this. From what I can make out both sides have concentrated on the nitty gritty of the planning application given that that is where much of the detail lies. On the other hand I’m told planning submissions are normally very general with regard to the arts as anything in the submission developers can be held to. Most developers as I know from the King’s Stables Road site are indeed looking to do as little as posible to fulfill their arts obligation but in the case of the Old Royal High School hotel this is certainly not the case. What the music school intervention has done is make it very hard for the arts and culture sector to support the hotel without seeming to be taking sides. Should the hotel application be successful I think you would see a very different picture emerge very quickly.

Nobody is claiming the hotel is the perfect solution, but it is the best solution and will without a shadow of a doubt benefit the arts community far more than any other option.