Rothesay Pavilion hits £3m heritage lottery jackpot

VisitBute's AGM will be held at Rothesay Pavilion on Thursday, March 19, 2015.
VisitBute's AGM will be held at Rothesay Pavilion on Thursday, March 19, 2015.

A long-held dream is set to finally become a reality thanks to the approval of the last, and largest, chunk of funding for the £8 million transformation of Rothesay Pavilion.

An award of £3.33 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, confirmed on Tuesday, means that all the major funding bids for the building’s restoration have now been approved - and that work can at last begin on a project which, it’s hoped, will play a leading role in Bute’s economic recovery.

The grant will help transform Rothesay Pavilion into a significant cultural centre and visitor attraction, giving the town’s seafront a much needed boost.

Despite its poor condition, more than 40 local community groups continue to use the Pavilion - which is owned by Argyll and Bute Council - for meetings and activities. The spaces they use will be transformed and include a new multi-purpose roof top space.

The main auditorium will be upgraded and a second performance venue created as a dedicated space for young people.

Permanent and temporary display galleries will accommodate a changing programme of high-quality exhibitions, and a bistro, bars, shop and box office will provide visitors with the comfort they expect today.

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “This wonderful Pavilion is evocative of Rothesay’s heyday as a thriving tourist resort.

“Its resurgence as a cultural venue for the local community and visitors will not only save an important piece of the Bute’s heritage but will have a positive impact on the regeneration of this town. HLF is delighted to help put Rothesay Pavilion back at the heart of island life and community pride.”

The restoration work will include the following:

* In the main hall: a full upgrade, including back of house facilities, the creation of a second bar and a goods lift to the lower floor below to allow storage of equipment.

* Mackinlay Street wing - creation of space for a second performance and community venue.

* On the roof - a new extension to provide lettable offices and multi-function space.

* On the first floor - a new café with an improved and enlarged catering kitchen, improved storage and new toilets.

* On the ground floor - enhancement of the foyer, an open plan box office/shop, a multi-purpose exhibition space, toilets, staff office, staff changing and shower facilities, a lift and a disabled access ramp to the main entrance.

* Infrastructure - a full mechanical and electrical upgrade, including the installation of a lift to all floors.

* Outside - full repairs to the exterior of the building.

Council leader Dick Walsh said: “This is fantastic news; we’re delighted to have this endorsement of our project from HLF. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the project team who’ve done a fantastic job in putting this complex funding package together.

“With all the major funding in place we can now get on with delivering the project and creating a fabulous, modern facility for culture, tourism and sport.”

In addition to the HLF’s £3.33m award, the Pavilion project has also received financial support from the UK government’s Coastal Communities Fund (£600,000), the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grants Fund (£625,000), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (£750,000), Historic Scotland (£500,000) and Argyll and Bute Council itself (£1.8 million in borrowed funds for the authority’s CHORD waterfront regeneration scheme).

The Provost of Argyll and Bute, Rothesay-based councillor Len Scoullar, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled with this news. With all the main funders coming to the table, planning and listed building consent and a robust business plan, we’re ready to move forward with the actual construction work.

“The renovated Pavilion will provide the people of Bute, as well as visitors to the island, with a fantastic facility that they can be proud of; it will act as a community and cultural centre which will attract visitors and boost the local economy.

“I’d like to thank the local community, the council’s own staff and the Pavilion Charity for their contributions in getting us to this stage.”

Opened in 1938, Rothesay Pavilion is one of the most important examples of Modern Movement architecture in the UK and has a special place in the holiday memories of many thousands of Scots.

The Glasgow Fair fortnight once saw crowds of holidaymakers take the paddle-steamer ‘doon the watter’ to Bute to stroll along the promenade with an ice cream, then dance or watch a show at the Pavilion, where Scotland’s top acts of the time performed.

Dr Nick Merriman, chair of the Pavilion Charity, said: “I’m delighted that HLF has given such backing to the project. As well as providing support for the refurbishment of the building, their funding will allow the employment of an engagement officer to work with local schools and community members, and later on a director who will develop the artistic and cultural programme.

“It’s very exciting now to be at the point where we can really begin to put into action the plans that have been developed over a long period, and to look forward to the re-opened Pavilion making such a difference to people’s lives locally.”

The Pavilion’s doors will be shut in the autumn of this year, after a Grand Closing Weekend, celebrating the building’s past, present and future, on September 4, 5 and 6.

Following the removal of furniture and attachments, construction work will start in January 2016, with a view to the newly renovated facility opening in the summer of 2017.