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March 16, 2007

Drill Hall fired up by £400k award

A popular festival venue and community arts centre in Edinburgh is to undergo a major expansion and refurbishment after landing a funding boost of nearly £400,000.

Brian Ferguson

Drill Hall fired up by £400k award


Brian Ferguson

Edinburgh Evening News




A POPULAR festival venue and community arts centre is to undergo a major expansion and refurbishment after landing a funding boost of nearly £400,000.


The money will allow the historic Drill Hall in Leith to undergo vital restoration work and double the number of artists’ studios and workshop space in its spectacular atrium. A former rifle range will also be turned into a sculpture garden.


The Big Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland have awarded £245,000 and £125,000 respectively for what is the final phase of an overhaul of the Dalmeny Street building.


The arts organisation Out of the Blue bought the building from the Army for £650,000 in 2003 and embarked on an initial refurbishment to allow more than 40 artists and organisations to move in.


A second phase, which is just about to be completed, has seen the creation of new offices and studios for another 30 groups in the atrium area, as well as a performance and rehearsal space in the heart of the building.


The group has been given the double funding news just weeks before opening the building to the general public, when a brand new licensed cafe will also be launched.


Rob Hoon, co-ordinator of Out of the Blue, said the £370,000 was a major step towards getting the final phase of the refurbishment under way, as well as securing the building’s long-term future.


He added: “The Drill Hall is a historically and architecturally significant building which we are transforming into an arts centre with a developing programme of exhibitions and cultural events alongside regular arts projects. The funding we’ve secured today will allow us to carry out a continual programme of repairs and refurbishment, and also allow us to press on with the final phase of studio and office space.


“We can now approach other funders for that project and it will hopefully help us attract commercial sponsors for it.”


The cash will not only be used to help pay for a major programme of repairs and restoration for the building, but is expected to kick- start work on the creation of a mezzanine level of office and studio space, as well as the sculpture garden.


Out of the Blue plans to transform a rundown park next to the building with an outdoor theatre, sculptures and a community garden.


Diggers have moved into the neglected green space at Dalmeny Street Park for the first phase of a £350,000 refurbishment expected to take more than three years to complete.


The Drill Hall scheme is the first urban project in the country to benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s new “growing community assets” scheme.


Alison Magee, chair of the Scotland committee of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “I’m delighted to announce an award of £244,000 to Out of the Blue to refurbish and restore an old drill hall that will be transformed into a community asset, which will include studios and workspace for individuals and groups, educational spaces, a café and a creche.”