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Eden Court boss keen to reopen Inverness theatre


By Calum MacLeod

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Local musicians have been a mainstay of Eden Court's summer Under Canvas event, but they could also have an important role in helping the return of live entertainment.
Local musicians have been a mainstay of Eden Court's summer Under Canvas event, but they could also have an important role in helping the return of live entertainment.

Local performers and businesses, as well as audiences, will be important in helping Eden Court recover from the effects of lockdown, according to chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman.

Speaking to Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol in an online interview as part of the Chamber’s Highland Spotlight day, Mr Mackenzie-Blackman spoke about the “financially devastating” impact of lockdown on Scotland’s largest single site arts venue.

Normally turning over
£6 million to £7 million annually and employing just under 200 staff, the start of lockdown saw the number of working staff reduced to just a dozen and the theatre refunding more than £1 million for cancelled shows.

However, there were signs of the theatre returning to life.

Mr Mackenzie-Blackman was speaking shortly after Eden Court’s first live performance in 219 days, a Pop Up Opera show by Scottish Opera, performed on a covered trailer.

Mr Mackenzie-Blackman described it as an odd but delightful experience.

“It was a fairly momentous moment for us,” he said.

“I was trying to process how it made me feel all day. Obviously it was fantastic to see families back, but in the car park and not in auditoriums. I was delighted, but it was odd nonetheless.”

Eden Court's James Mackenzie-Blackman believes it is vital ton open up the Inverness theatre as soon as practical.
Eden Court's James Mackenzie-Blackman believes it is vital ton open up the Inverness theatre as soon as practical.

Mr Mackenzie-Blackman and his team are still working towards opening up to customers again in October, beginning with its food offering and cinema, building up to some sort of live performance in November.

“There is clear evidence across the sector that the longer we are closed, the harder it will be to get them back, so I felt quite strongly we had a responsibility to get the building open,” he explained.

However, he acknowledged that timetable had been put in doubt by the re-imposition of anti-coronavirus restrictions.

“Will we still be open in three weeks? I don’t know. We will have to see what the First Minister says,” he commented.

Mr Mackenzie-Blackman, who also appeared on BBC1’s UK-wide 6pm news bulletin this week to appeal for an extension to the UK furlough scheme, warned audiences not to expect international touring acts to visit Eden Court “any time soon”.

“Over the coming months, localism is going to be king,” he said. “Even the big musicals are unlikely until the middle of 2021. We are going to need the local performers to get our doors open.”

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