CITY COUNCIL REPORTER
MAJOR outdoor events are set to be staged year-round on Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade under plans to create new multi-million-pound grandstands.
An “Easter Tattoo”, sporting events, historical re-enactments and rock, pop and classical concerts are all being mooted for the historic site.
They are being considered as part of plans to replace the ageing seating structures, which hold 8500 spectators per night during the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
It is thought events – including major concerts at Hogmanay – could be peppered throughout the calendar as early as 2008 if funding for the new-look arena, which is expected to cost at least £20 million, can be secured.
Council leader Donald Anderson today said it was “essential” the project went ahead, declaring it to be of national significance.
Historic Scotland, which runs the Castle, is expected to commission a feasibility study by the end of the year which will produce plans for the new stands.
It is thought the study will explore options for storing them below the Esplanade, so as not to avoid ruining the look of the area or reducing the number of parking spaces available.
It currently takes around two months to build the seating structures in the run-up to the Tattoo and another five to six weeks to take them down again.
The Evening News revealed last month that removal of scaffolding from the Esplanade this year had been delayed until early November after a contractor went bust.
It later emerged that the Tattoo and Historic Scotland had been rapped by the Health and Safety Executive for workers’ lives being put at risk because of arrangements in place during the erection of the stands this year.
An insider said: “There is huge potential to have events throughout the year, such as boxing matches, classical music concerts, Beating the Retreat-type events and even jousting tournaments Historic Scotland stage a lot of different events at their sites throughout the country, but it’s just not possible to do anything on the Esplanade outwith the Festival period in Edinburgh because of the costs involved.
“That would all change if these new seats could be put up within a week or so.”
Brigadier Melville Jamieson, producer of the Tattoo, said: “We would love to bring some kind of event to the Esplanade around Easter-time if we could get this new set-up there.
“The seating structures that we use at the moment are perfectly safe, but this would obviously dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to put them up and down and it has the huge potential to be able to cater for other events throughout the year.”
Mark Mackie, director of Regular Music, the promoters of a string of major concerts at the Esplanade over the years, said:
“We think Edinburgh Castle Esplanade is simply the best outdoor venue in the world.
“We wouldn’t want to cheapen it by putting on too many events and it would be important they were good quality concerts, but it would be great if this came off.”
Councillor Anderson said: “We would have to be careful about the number of events staged at the Esplanade, but obviously the impact the scaffolding has there would be greatly reduced with the creation of these new stands.
“The current arrangements are not