09 December 2021
By Aileen MacLennan
Argyll and Bute Council will seek national funding support to meet pandemic and EU exit costs of completing Rothesay Pavilion’s transformation as a national centre for arts and popular culture.
The Pavilion, built in 1938 on the island of Bute, is one of Scotland’s grade A listed buildings and of unique international architectural significance.
Thousands of visitors flock there each summer and did so for most of last century as passengers on the ever popular PS Waverley, pictured above and right.
A multi-million-pound investment programme, by Argyll and Bute Council and funding partners, is transforming the building into an entertainment, events, and business venue, for local people, and tourists. This bold initiative plays a key role in placing the community, culture, and creative industries at the heart of Scotland’s rural and island regeneration.
The council has committed up to £20 million to the project, and Rothesay Pavilion Charity is set up to run the building as a thriving concern once complete. Construction work was progressing, until the original contractor went into administration in 2020.
The council now has another construction company in place to complete the Pavilion’s transformation, but cost increases, resulting in large part from the pandemic and global supply chain challenges, labour shortages in the construction sector and EU exit, mean the council must seek additional funding sources.
Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Robin Currie, said: “The Pavilion has great potential as a driver for the local economy of Bute and more widely for Scotland’s tourism and events sectors.
The unprecedented and unforeseeable consequences of the covid pandemic and EU Exit have completely changed the challenges that need to be overcome to complete the Pavilion’s transformation. Local authorities simply do not receive the level of resources to be able to absorb the steep cost increases involved.
We have done all that we as a council can possibly do.
This building is of national significance. It needs more national funding support.”
At its meeting on 9 December 2021 the council’s Policy and Resources Committee took the decision to pause the development project, so as to create time to source additional funding.
The council will set up a cross-party group to lead a programme of targeted lobbying activity, to include both the Scottish and UK Governments (who have provided assistance and investment to similar projects elsewhere, including the Glasgow School of Art, V&A in Dundee and the Tate Modern project in St Ives), and any other agencies or organisations which can assist.
The Pavilion is home to one of the largest dance hall and music venues in Scotland and – on completion of the building programme – plans include a year-round programme of immersive events and exhibitions featuring live music, dance, comedy, drama, literature, visual arts, alongside a wide range of leisure activities and civic celebrations.
Facilities will include a stylish café bar with stunning views overlooking the Clyde Coast offering local produce, as well as an events arena, performance studio, seafront gallery and retail space to showcase national and international craft and design talent in keeping with the Pavilion’s unique industrial and cultural heritage. Modern workplace facilities will be available for creative businesses looking to grow, and a new multimedia studio will support youth education and content production.
Janice Forsyth Chair of Rothesay Pavilion, the charity that would run the Pavilion as a cultural hub and visitor attraction on completion of the restoration, said: “Rothesay Pavilion is an island treasure with a unique story to tell and a rich legacy spanning decades of wonderful history. We remain strongly committed to safeguarding its contemporary architecture and rich cultural heritage for future generations. In its rejuvenated form, the building will offer a range of modern, accessible spaces designed to meet the aspirations of 21st Century audiences, visitors, performers, and creative entrepreneurs. Once complete, it is set to revive Bute’s fortunes as a world class tourism destinationbringing many added social and economic benefits to the local community and placing Bute firmly back in the list of ‘Top 10 places to visit’ in Scotland.”
It is anticipated that the project will require an estimated additional £11 million to be completed.