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Edinburgh: Fresh start for Old Royal High School

Publication: Broughton Spurtle

Broughton Spurtle explains the plans of the Royal High School Preservation Trust for the National Centre for Music.

Royal High School | Photo by © 2007 Chris Sherlock

Plans to install St Mary’s Music School in a refurbished and extended old Royal High School complex have been shelved. In an inflationary climate, projected costs had risen from £45m in 2017 to over £110m this year, requiring a major rethink.

In proposals seen by the Spurtle, the Royal High School Preservation Trust now envisages a National Centre for Music offering improved and simplified access, flexible performance and practice areas, education and conference spaces, a restaurant and café, offices for administration, accommodation for visiting musicians, public access to views from the colonnades and portico, and an overall complex facilitating artistic collaboration and fun.

Six temporary venues could operate outside the Hamilton building each summer. A substantial redesign– ‘romantic and naturalistic’ – will transform garden areas into an international draw in their own right.

Willie Gray Muir, chair of the RHSPT, says all this can be achieved at very close to the original budget. Executive and political elements within the Council are supportive, as are Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland. A new planning application will follow in autumn 2023, and work on-site should follow next summer.

The new National Centre for Music, working in creative synergy with the Dunard Centre in St Andrew Square, should start in late 2026/early 2027. Its board is already being recruited.

Further details will follow, as will news of a move to St Mary’s Music School.