The much anticipated work on the King's Theatre in Edinburgh is now well underway. The front and sides of the building have been established as a working site, delineated with vivid blue painted walls and controlled access via stadium type turnstiles.
The old building has been dormant for some time now as cash for the work was sought through various funding bodies. There was a great deal of worry, fuelled by regular comment in the press, that the funding may not have been forthcoming and that the magnificent building was in danger of being lost to the Edinburgh and wider Scottish community.
Inconceivable, some might say, but last year we were met with the terrible news that another of our fine establishments in the capital, the wonderful Filmhouse, had gone to the wall. That news was initially met with howls of disdain and large protests, however now that time has passed and the Filmhouse loss is no longer top of the news agenda, there appears to be little being done to continue the fight for its reinstatement. Walking past the building is a sad experience, the old entrance as well as windows facing out into Lothian Road are now behind ugly reinforced metal plates. It looks like a derelict property ready for the off.
People flock to branded cinema chains to watch countless films in the various blockbuster franchises, while the Filmhouse lies silent and the opportunity to catch some worthy independent films is denied to the Edinburgh audiences. It is a strange thing indeed.
I was slightly anxious when I first saw the boundary wall being constructed around the old theatre. Having read so much about the uncertainty of funding and possibility of permanent closure, I had visions of a terrible outcome for the King's. I think I might even have had an actual nightmare at one point and dreamt that the ultimate indignity might be visited on the place as it was converted to a Wetherspoons pub. It was with a great deal of relief that I learned that no, that evil was not to be realised and the theatre was to live on.
All good, until I was making my way home from work last week. I am fortunate to have my journey greatly enhanced by having to pass by the theatre and I can sometimes snatch a look at work in progress on the upper storeys of the building, reassuring as it is to catch a glimpse of some small bit of effort undertaken.
I could not believe what I saw. They were taking down the canopy at the front of the building. The one they often decorate, especially in the run-up to the gang show and panto in late November, December time and which has become a notable landmark in the area. Locals can also testify that, over the years, it has provided much needed shelter on a rainy day. My concern now is that it may have gone forever, perhaps to be replaced by a modern glass wall affair as can be seen at the nearby Usher Hall, or across town at the Festival Theatre. Both of these buildings are fine in their own way but the King's would not be the same without it.
The campaign has started. Bring back the canopy.
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