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Coronavirus tribute to take centre stage at Eden Court in Inverness this Christmas

By Philip Murray

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Eden Court has filmed a 'Christmas Crackers' video to engage with local schools.
Eden Court has filmed a 'Christmas Crackers' video to engage with local schools.

A moving tribute to those whose lives have been lost to Covid-19 will be front and centre when a leading Highland venue marks Christmas this year.

Eden Court is set to feature a 30ft tall Norwegian spruce on its front lawn this festive season – in what is being hailed as “the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree you will see in Inverness”.

And the lights decorating the tree and keeping the winter gloom at bay will pay a simple but moving tribute to not only the dozens of Highlanders who have lost their lives to coronavirus this year – but also to those who have sadly died across Scotland.

Designed by Inverness-born leading theatre designer Kenneth MacLeod, the tree aims to serve as both a celebration of the season and a reflection on the momentous year we have all faced together – in what theatre bosses have described as being “a gift from the team at Eden Court to the people of the Highlands”.

More than 3000 lights will represent the total number of Covid deaths in Scotland and a stunning star on the top of the tree will be lit by more than 50 lights, representing the individual Covid deaths in the Highland area.

As well as the tree, a range of decorations on it have been inspired by Eden Court’s unique architecture – and local primary schools will be helping to make more than 50 lanterns that will sit around its base.

Backing up this moving centrepiece, the Bishop’s Palace building will be brought to life with “cutting-edge light projections” to add to the festive ambience.

To avoid crowds gathering there will be no ‘switch-on’ ceremony of the lights on the tree or the building projections. Both will be available to view from 10am-11.30pm daily from December 3 to early January.

Away from the tree, theatre bosses are also promising a veritable “Christmas hamper” of performance goodies for visitors this festive season.

They were speaking after Eden Court unveiled a packed programme of events – ranging from feel-good film favourites and colourful festive light projections, to the reopening of the OneTouch Theatre.

Stars of stage and screen are set to appear in special Screen on Stage events in the reopened theatre – including Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott.

The programme will feature a mix of screened theatre, opera, music, ballet and exhibition.

Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page in The Red Shoes.
Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page in The Red Shoes.

And the line-up includes NT Live’s War Horse, Fleabag and Present Laughter, Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, and Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace.

And, although the beloved panto will be sorely missed in the wake of Covid, a “very special short film” from its stars will be delighting Highland children instead.

Thousands of primary school children from across the region will be missing their visits to panto so the Eden Court Engagement Team have devised a festive-themed interactive show that will be beamed directly into up to 175 classrooms across the region.

Eden Court’s pantomime stars Steven Wren, Ross Allan and Claire Darcy will feature in the short film about the magic of theatre to be shared in the run up to the holidays.

And Eden Court’s cinema screens will also feature Christmas favourites The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Die Hard, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life – which were chosen by the public after Twitter users were asked to come forward with some suggestions.

The Café, Bar and Bistro will also be serving a festive menu from December 3, with a roast turkey dinner on offer daily from noon-6pm.

Eden Court chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman said: “We have been absolutely determined to provide our audiences with a series of safe ways to engage with us this Christmas and I’m delighted with how our festive programme has developed.

“From Kenneth MacLeod’s commission to dress our beautiful tree, through to providing employment to some of our panto’s company in making our short film and beaming into up to 175 Highland classrooms, I’m thrilled to have a team of such talent working around me.”

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