‘FILMFEST’ BUILDING PROJECT DESERVED A FAIRER SCREENING

KEN HOUSTON

Part of the Festival of Architecture 2016, ‘Unbuilt Edinburgh’ was a small but fascinating exhibition featuring construction projects planned for the capital  which never got beyond the drawing board, some because of lack of finance others because they were just too controversial…

Looking back, it seems incredible, that one serious post-War redevelopment plan proposed to turn the western half of Princes Street into part of a four-lane inner-ring road and also demolish the higgledy-piggledy buildings along the entire length of the thoroughfare and replace them with symmetrical concrete structures.

So no great loss there but another un-built project, closer to our own time, was surely something of a loss to the capital.

I refer to the Sean Connery Filmhouse, an ambitious, four-storey rotunda building located on Festival Square and so named because the Edinburgh-born actor – already legendary as the silver screen’s first ‘James Bond’ – had given his backing to the project. It was designed by the Edinburgh-based architectural firm of Richard Murphy and launched in 2004.

The building was to have become the focus of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, comprising a main cinema plus four or five smaller flexible auditoria; spaces for curriculum development and production; and offices for Film Festival staff. After dark the building, which would also have been visible from the west end of Princes Street, was to be transformed by neon-lit branding and illuminated film advertising.

The location was considered particularly suitable because of its proximity to the Usher Hall and Royal Lyceum and Traverse Theatres, thus enhancing Edinburgh’s ‘cultural quarter’.

The Sheraton Hotel, which has an open outlook onto the square and whose entire west side it occupies was, perhaps understandably, not best pleased by the proposal on the basis that the building would interfere with the view from some bedrooms.

Less understandably, though not untypically, the project was denied the backing of the city council and the Sean Connery Filmhouse (like the failed opera house project on nearby Castle Terrace) never materialised.

So the gala opening of this year’s Film Festival will take place at the Festival Theatre, located on off-pitch South Bridge, with the programme extending to various venues, including the current Filmhouse, a poor substitute housed in a former church.

That the opening – and the entire programme – is not being housed in Richard Murphy’s striking rotunda seems another of those lost opportunities for which Edinburgh seems to have an unenviable knack.

 

LOONY TROONS

Just up the coast from Prestwick, Royal Troon golf club, which is hosting this year’s UK Open championship, has come under pressure because of its failure to admit females to the membership – a policy Muirfield decided to retain in a controversial vote last week.

Just as Alex Salmond refused to attend the ‘Open’ at Muirfield in 2013 because of the club’s position on women, so his successor, Nicola, along with Tory and Labour leaders Ruthie and Kez, have thrown their dollies down on the ground, stamped their feet and gone in a similar huff and refused to attend this year’s event for the same reason.

Yet the position at Royal Troon is not a ‘ban’ on women per se – males and females share the facilities, only they have a separate clubhouse.

Given the reaction of some politicians, along with the usual array of feminist harridans, you’d think that women using the Troon course were being forced to wear a niqab or were denied playing a round without a male chaperone.

Talking of which, given Nicola Sturgeon’s close relationship with Glasgow’s Muslim community, it would be interesting to know her position on the separation of males and females in mosques and male domination of committees.

Social liberals are quick to praise ‘diversity’ and emphasise the need to respect the various ‘cultures’ of our ethnic minorities. Yet the cultural practices favoured by a certain brand of white, middle-aged, middle-class, blazer-wearing males are somehow considered beyond the pale.

 

NO WINNERS IN THIS FLIGHT OF FANCY

Derek Banks is a braver man than I am – or most other people in business, I would imagine. The former Coatbridge College financial officer has become the new finance and commercial director at loss-making Prestwick Airport, whose fortunes he has been charged with trying to turn around.

With a background in the public sector quangocracy, it will be interesting to see how he manages to achieve this aim given that the Scottish Government bought Prestwick for £1 after the experienced previous owners, having failed to find a buyer, walked away.

Politicians often like to talk about a ‘win-win’ situation but Prestwick can only ever be described in terms of ‘no-win’. There is no logical or economic justification for central Scotland, with a population of just four million, to have three international airports in which case any new routes – passenger or cargo – that Mr Banks manages to attract to PIK will be ones that would otherwise have gone to GLA or EDI.

So even with a Prestwick revival (of sorts) the net result will be zilch extra jobs – but an awful lot of taxpayers’ money vanishing into thin air.

Twitter: @PropPRMan

 

 

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