From Girls Aloud to Super Mario: What new pop and virtual reality arenas will bring to Edinburgh
Plus: Lawyers in scramble to save series of £1m-plus house moves
Pop arena to transform Festivals and Ocean Terminal ‘reimagines family entertainment‘
Two transformative venues are set to open in Edinburgh following confirmation of a “world-class” concert arena and an immersive entertainment complex.
The 8,500-capacity concert arena at Edinburgh Park will not only bring more music superstars to the Capital, but offer the Edinburgh International Festival and big name Fringe acts a far bigger stage than has been regularly possible in the past. Due to open in 2027, it will be operated by one of the leading global venue operators AEG, whose portfolio includes London’s O2, the Mercedes-Benz Arenas in Berlin and Shanghai, and Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena.
The gaming and immersive entertainment provider Level X will take over roughly a quarter of the ground floor of Ocean Terminal with a complex including a small virtual reality arena, e-sports, arcade games and karaoke. Its opening next year will be the first major step in turning the struggling shopping mall into a “town centre” for a large part of the north-east of the city, with significant leisure and shopping facilities.
Festival blockbusters: While August is one of the quietest months for London’s O2, it is expected to be one of the busiest for the Edinburgh arena. The venue will offer new opportunities for the International Festival to attract leading global performers and take their contemporary music programme - which has featured everything from rap to indie pop - to a different level. The superstar acts of the Fringe, such as Cirque du Soleil and comedians including Romesh Ranganathan and Jimmy Carr, will easily sell out the larger venue.
From pop to darts: The music arena will not compete directly with Glasgow’s Hydro - which is almost twice the size with a capacity of 14,300 - but it will benefit from being run by a major industry player and Edinburgh’s influx of August and festive visitors. Expect nostalgic touring acts, the likes of Girls Aloud and Depeche Mode; popular shows on the scale of Disney on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing; and some sports events such as professional league darts; alongside more cutting edge performers.
Cultural quarter: The arena will kickstart developer Parabola’s vision for a new “cultural quarter” at Edinburgh Park. So far that consists of only the 1 New Park Square complex which has a 150-seat events space and a multi-storey car park, but Parabola has a track record of success with the King’s Place complex in London. Critically, it is close to the tram stop - a significant contributor to Murrayfield’s success as a concert venue - so can disperse crowds far faster than the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston which suffers from a severe traffic bottleneck. It will also feature retail and food and drink space.
‘Reimagining family entertainment’: Ocean Terminal will be Level X’s second Scottish venue following the launch of its popular attraction at Glasgow’s St Enoch’s Centre last year. Founder Tom Wilks, who launched the Lane7 bowling venues and has established Level X as one of the UK’s fastest growing independent businesses, says he aims to “reimagine family entertainment”.
Zombies to karaoke: The Ocean Terminal complex will combine an Alt Verse virtual reality games arena, where you can hunt zombies and go Grand Prix racing; arcade games from retro classics like Super Mario to the latest releases; go-karting, bowling, mini-golf and table tennis; plus karaoke booths and food and drink.
Trams pay-off: The proximity of the tram line is understood to have been a key attraction to both venues in choosing their locations.
YOUR EDINBURGH BRIEFING
£55M GREEN FLEET: More than 50 bin lorries as well as street sweepers, cleaning vans and the Lord Provost’s two civic cars are to be upgraded at a cost of £55 million to make them compliant with the city’s new Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Many will be replaced with electric vehicles ahead of the LEZ going live next June.
SLAINTE: Leith-based whisky blenders Woven Whisky Makers – recently named as one of the World’s Most Admired Whiskies by Drink’s International – is the latest brand to pop-up at Edinburgh’s St James Quarter, after winning a small business pop-up competition with Sage. From Wednesday until 2 December, they will be at the Quarter with a complimentary gift-wrap service. Even more excitingly 1,000 customers will also enjoy a dram of their Hemispheres blend on the house. Hemispheres blends a Manuka smoked whisky from New Zealand with a single grain from Edinburgh. Yum.
TOP FOR CULTURE: The Time Out travel guides have recognised Edinburgh as one of the best in it first ever ranking of the world’s greatest cities of culture. The Capital was ranked sixth globally, with Mexico City taking top spot, with particular mention going to the National Museums and National Galleries as well as the Festivals.
LEGAL DELAY FOR NEW HOMES: Stressed city lawyers have rushed to ensure new homeowners have legal documents in place at a multi-million pound building site.
Building workers have been given overtime to complete the prestigious Newington Residences development on the Southside. Yesterday morning power tools were being used to lay mono-block paving areas in a final rush for completion before Christmas in the grounds of the former Royal Blind School.
The multi-million pound Cala Homes development, which has resulted in the complete renovation of the Victorian clocktower building for luxury flats, and the creation of a row of new town homes, has been plagued by delays caused by the COVID-19 lockdown, bad weather and major infrastructure works to build new sewage and drainage run-off systems near the city’s Pow Burn, adjacent to the South Sub railway.
As the final town houses were being handed over last week it was discovered by one new owner that the feu granting ownership from the Royal Blind School, now Sight Scotland, was not assigned to several new homes worth more than a million pounds each. The Inquirer understands this halted the flitting of several homes. MacRoberts, a leading independent law firm, were asked to sort out the legal error. It meant hold ups to the transactions, with the Royal Blind School’s lawyer, Thorntons, becoming involved. Meanwhile, new homeowners were not allowed the keys to their homes with removal vans due to arrive. The Sight Scotland directors were hurriedly called to sign key land registry documents which eventually allowed the homes to be handed over to their owners.
One homeowner, who did not want to be named, said: “Moving to a new home and having the legal work in position for handover is stressful enough, but basic errors missed by reputable law firms is really rather unbelievable.”
CHIMPS TEA-PARTY: Happy Birthday to You-ooo-ooo, at Edinburgh Zoo-ooo-ooo. The zoo kindly shared tea-party pics of chimpanzees celebrating the 30th birthdays of four of their troop - Frek, Rene, Paul and Kilimi. The special day was marked with some home made toys and gift-wrapped boxes full of seeds and maize. Edinburgh Zoo is home to 15 chimps – the others being Louis (47), Lucy (47), Eva (42), Sophie (41), Lianne (34), Heleen (32), Qafzeh (32), Edith (27), Liberius (24), Velu (9) and Masindi (3)
TEAROOMS RETURN: A celebrated historic Princes Street tearoom once described as a “wonder of the world” is to be reopened as part of a luxury hotel development. Crawford’s Tearooms, established by the biscuit making family in the 1920s, was famous for its art-deco murals and resident orchestra. Recreating the tearooms is part of plans for a new 60-bedroom boutique hotel overlooking the National Galleries of Scotland on the corner of Princes Street and Hanover Street. Kuwaiti-backed developers RRH Hanover want to convert mainly the upper floors of five largely underused buildings.
SPENDING SQUEEZE: Scotland's public sector workforce will have to shrink due to funding pressure, the finance secretary has warned. Shona Robison told the BBC’s The Sunday Show there was "no doubt" services would have to cope with reduced staffing due to tight budgets and inflation-driven pay deals. Health services would be protected, and ministers wanted to avoid compulsory redundancies, she added.
CONCERT HALL COSTS SOAR: The cost of building the IMPACT concert hall off St Andrew Square has dramatically shot up, putting a strain on the project’s finances. The estimated cost of the project - the biggest new concert hall in the city since the Usher Hall opened in 1914 - has risen by around £40 million since the Covid lockdowns amidst the biggest costs crisis in the construction industry in decades. That means it has risen from an initial £45 million to £75 million when it was granted planning permission in 2019 to around £115 million.
MARKET FORCES: A record-breaking 80,000 people packed Edinburgh’s Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on Saturday, its busiest ever day. During the afternoon and early evening long queues were forced to use the Market Street entrance only, as the city centre was so busy. Market organisers have advised visitors to come outside the peak Friday/Saturday hours if possible.
VISITOR LEVY ON CRUISES: Rob Mason, Head of Cruise at Edinburgh-based Forth Ports, and Chair of Cruise Scotland, has stated that a visitor levy on cruise ships could have an impact on visitor numbers to the Capital.
Scotland saw 886 cruise calls in 2023 compared to 616 in 2019, bringing over one million passengers to the country. Edinburgh has a large number of these visitors, many now using the Edinburgh Tram to reach central Edinburgh. A further increase in numbers is expected in 2024.
“Disappointingly, there’s been an announcement about extending the local visitor levy – a tourism tax – to include cruise vessels, effectively taxing the thousands of cruise passengers who arrive at Scottish ports. The risk is that cruise ships will simply avoid Scotland, which has been the case across other European destinations where cruise lines have removed the ports from their itineraries – with all economic benefit lost. The industry is therefore requesting urgent discussions with the Scottish Government on these proposals,” he said in The Herald.
Increasingly cruise ships have been criticised for their carbon footprint.
“Cruise ships comprise less than 1% of the global maritime community, yet the industry can be considered at the forefront of the development of innovative technologies and practices to reduce emissions both at berth and at sea. Sustainability is not a new priority – let’s not forget the cruise industry was the first maritime sector to publicly commit, in 2018, to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2008. The industry is also accelerating the use of cleaner ships with cruise lines investing in 44 new and technologically advanced ships over the next five years, representing an investment of $62 billion since 2019.”
DIGITAL TWINS SIGN DEAL: Edinburgh Napier University has signed a partnership agreement with CGI, one of the world’s largest independent IT and business consulting firms, to enhance its digital network for students and staff.
The announcement comes as the university unveils it Centre of Excellence in Digital Twins with a particular focus on developing Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The partnership will see Canadian-based CGI leverage its digital expertise to assist the university’s research capabilities in areas such as improving health and security outcomes for society. Edinburgh Napier has also joined CGI’s Sustainability Exploration and Environmental Data Science (SEEDS) programme, a research partnership with academia and the United Nations. Through SEEDS, the CGI and the university have launched a “Digital Twin” centre of excellence where five pilot projects have been initiated. The first phase, examining the rehabilitation of stroke survivors so they are able to live as independently, has been delivered.
Lindsay McGranaghan, Senior Vice President, at CGI, said: “We are thrilled to have signed this agreement with Edinburgh Napier University, and are also very pleased that they have joined CGI’s SEEDS programme. We are looking forward to bringing our unique expertise to the university, and to support their vision for a new, sustainable, far-reaching digital stakeholder experience.
Professor Nick Antonopoulos, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “I am delighted to welcome the development. Our partnership will aim to strengthen the university’s ability to digitise important services for staff and students. It will also create opportunities for collaborative research and the joint development of IP in the fields of health, wellbeing and sustainability.
“I am also excited to announce that, as part of this partnership, CGI and Edinburgh Napier University are launching a joint Centre of Excellence in Digital Twins with a particular focus on developing AI, together with advanced technology tools and solutions to support sustainability in the environment, businesses and broader society.”
HIGHER AUTHORITY: The upgrading of telecommunications infrastructure in the city goes on in the city’s steeples. Galliford Try, one of the major UK’s construction and facilities management listed companies, is seeking permission to remove older antenna in two of the city’s highest buildings and replace them with twice the number of smaller aerials to deliver enhanced 5G coverage. The Category A listed Barclay Viewforth Church, known locally as God’s Spaceship, which towers over the Meadows, and Broughton St Mary’s Parish, in Bellevue Crescent, are both applying for council permissions for the upgrades. The council is seeking consultation and comments from the community councils.
GAME ON: One of the most popular exhibitions to visit the National Museum of Scotland in recent years is to return next summer for a four-month run. Game On offers visitors a chance to wallow in nostalgia for - and get hands-on playing time - with computer games of years gone by such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Tetris.
FIDDLE SUCCESS: Tickets are fast selling out for a special Saint Andrew’s Day concert by Blazin’ Fiddles at the Usher Hall – where they will be joined by special guests Justin Currie of Del Amitri and Edinburgh’s Soundhouse Choir – on 30 November at 7.30pm.
WOMEN’S ART: From the Glasgow Girls and Anne Redpath to Rachel Maclean and Alberta Whittle, the Dovecot Studios are celebrating the female artists who have challenged the way that we look at the world. The well-received Scottish Women Artists: 250 years of Challenging Perception runs until 6 January.
STAR OPENING: The family behind the Michelin-starred Timberyard has opened their new wine bar at Abbeyhill. The Radfords will offer a small plate menu at Montrose House, on Montrose Terrace, which will feature a downstairs wine bar and first floor dining room.
PIZZA THE ACTION: Popular Neapolitan pizza restaurant Matto continues to grow its slice of the Edinburgh market by opening a third venue in the city – at the former Apiary site at Newington Road on the south side. It will launch on December 1 for dinner.
SOME EXTRA DIARY DATES FOR YOU
HIDDEN ART: Featuring hundreds of pieces from dozens of past Hidden Door festival artists, the Hidden Door Art Sale is at the Hub on 8-10 December. It’s a fantastic chance to grab a unique work of art to decorate that empty looking wall.
BURNS NIGHT ‘ANARCHY’: Fresh from touring with Young Fathers, singer and multi-instrumentalist Callum Easter and the Roulettes are hot property. You can catch them at the Burns & Beyond Festival for what is billed as “a night of freewheeling anarchy” on 25 January at the Assembly Rooms.