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Edinburgh Gateway may close as cost of safety upgrade rises

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Troubled Edinburgh theatre the Gateway faces the threat of permanent closure, potentially depriving the city of both a major fringe venue and its principal drama school.

The site’s main auditorium was shut down temporarily in May amid safety fears, after a building condition survey revealed that essential fire safety improvements were needed. As the cost of this work seems to be higher than was initially expected, Queen Margaret University College, which owns and runs the venue, is considering closing the theatre and its associated drama school and relocating the department to its new £50 million campus in Craighall, East Lothian.

Rosalyn Marshall, vice principal for QMUC, added: “Following a comprehensive fabric and building condition survey the main auditorium at the Gateway Theatre is closed until further notice for safety reasons. We are still in the process of carrying out an options appraisal to be considered by our estates committee at the end of August. The paper will then go forward to our next governing body meeting in September for a final decision.

“The current options are either to carry out the necessary repairs to reopen the main auditorium for college use, or to relocate our drama department to our new campus at Craighall when it opens in 2007. We are discussing the possibility of using the Brunton Theatre for some production purposes. However, the full extent of works required at the various locations is not yet known.”

In the meantime, part of the drama department will transfer to one of the university’s other campuses, Costorphine. However, this site is currently in the process of being sold and can therefore only be used to house the overflow temporarily. The studio theatre at the Gateway complex continues to operate.

The Gateway was reopened in 1998 following extensive refurbishment work funded with £1.5 million of National Lottery money. Last year, it launched an initiative with the Scottish Arts Council to showcase Scottish talent at the venue during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

However, in May the theatre was forced to close its main performance space, leaving three Scottish companies without a base for this year’s festival. The companies affected – Scottish Dance Theatre, Theatre Cryptic and Vanishing Point – all subsequently found new homes for reduced runs during the festival.

A spokesperson for the SAC commented: “Obviously with a large investment [£1.5 million] having been given by the SAC, we would want to see the venue being successful. However, there is no money available in our budget to support the theatre in its renovation work.”

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