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Eden Court Theatre in Inverness explores expansion plans

By Gregor White

The possibility of a major expansion is being explored by bosses at Eden Court Theatre.
The possibility of a major expansion is being explored by bosses at Eden Court Theatre.

Bosses at Eden Court say the move could help them attract world-class performers and blockbuster shows.

They are exploring the possibility of expanding the venue’s Empire Theatre to accommodate an additional 300 audience members, bringing its capacity to 1340.

It would also improve the theatre’s financial sustainability.

Although the planned project is at the very early stages, the expansion would put the theatre on the same standing as venues such as His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, which has a total capacity of 1491, and the 1350-seat King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.

Eden Court bosses are not making any public comment at this stage as they do not wish to raise public expectations.

But Highland councillors will be asked on Thursday to approve a £30,000 grant towards a feasibility study.

An initial conceptual study, funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Inverness Common Good Fund, has supported the future vision for the venue.

The theatre is now seeking support for costs associated with continued feasibility work into necessary redevelopment, refurbishment and change-of-use to facilities at the A-listed building.

Eden Court’s chief executive, James Mackenzie-Blackman, said it would be several weeks before they would know what might be possible.

“We’re at the very early stages of exploring potential works at Eden Court,” he said.

“The feasibility works that we hope will take place over the autumn are about further exploration of what’s possible.”

The theatre first opened in 1976.

It became the largest combined arts centre in Scotland when it re-opened in 2007 following a major refurbishment and expansion.

A report to be presented to the council’s environment, development and infrastucture committee states: “Eden Court Highlands needs to improve its financial sustainability.

“The potential capital works will ensure the buildings and facilities are fit-for-purpose for 21st century live performance, ensuring the Highland capital can attract world-class public performances.

“This will benefit the people of the Highlands and visitors to the region, and also assist with talent attraction and inward investment.

“Eden Court’s contribution to the local economy is significant.”

HIE is expected to provide match funding for the study.

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