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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 13:43 GMT
New arts venue shaping up
By Michael Lloyd
For BBC News Online

Impression of exterior
The hall is designed to be a leisure and business venue
As Perth's new multi-million pound concert hall takes shape, management is promising to make it one of the country's most radical venues.

"It's going to be unlike anything else in Scotland," said Svend Brown, one of the two music programmers for the venture.

He said that about 90% of the population is within easy reach of the hall and added: "We have to have a programme that is ambitious, not 'bog standard'."

The 1,200-seat hall and 150-seat studio are designed for maximum flexibility to host events from orchestras and family shows to rock music and flamenco.

Perth attracts 14m annually through business trips and plans to cash in on the lucrative conference market.

It is exactly what the city needs, according to local MSP Roseanna Cunningham, after she visited the site.

"It is very important to have this venue - look what the Eden Court Theatre has done for Inverness," she said.

The new venue will be managed jointly with the successful Perth Theatre and able to tap into its large audience base.

Mainstream with a twist is how we describe it - it has got to be something a bit unique
Barbara Chalmers
Marketing manager
It is sited on Horsecross - Perth's 17th century horse market - near the theatre. In time, the council hopes it will become the city's 'cultural quarter'.

But, how will it offer fare attractive to the traditional Perthshire theatregoers and bring in more distant audiences, too?

According to marketing manager Barbara Chalmers, skilful programming is the only way.

She said: "Mainstream with a twist is how we describe it - it has got to be something a bit unique."

Exactly what that means in practice, we will have to wait until programme details are announced early in 2005.

However, Svend Brown is confident. He said Perth is already one of Scotland's most musical cities.

Impression of auditorium
The aim is to provide a breadth of entertainment
"There are lots of people who are passionate about music here - it has one of the liveliest amateur music scenes in Scotland," he said.

But, with annual running costs estimated at 1.3m in a recent private survey, the hall will need to work hard to break even - according to local critics.

And the new venue may bring about the demise of the much-loved Perth City Hall, part of the Victorian townscape.

"I hope we will be able to retain some or all of it," said Ms Cunningham, who opposes demolition.

"However, we desperately need a new hall with proper facilities. The City Hall is not geared up for that."

The complex will be completed early in the New Year and officially opened in September.

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