Summerhall: arts venue in Edinburgh put up for sale

Summerhall has been one of the country’s most exciting multi-arts venues for 13 years, but its future looks uncertain today as the owners announce their intention to sell the building.

The current owners – Oesselmann Estate Limited, a company registered in the Isle of Man – have notified Summerhall Management Ltd of the planned sale, which would include the Summerhall building and all current licences. All planned events, including Summerhall’s upcoming shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will take place as planned, and Summerhall Management Ltd says all existing leases will remain in force, with tenants given the option to renew.

The Summerhall building was previously Edinburgh’s Royal School of Veterinary Studies, affectionately known as the Dick Vet. It was purchased in 2011 and converted into a multi-arts venue, quickly becoming an important part of Edinburgh’s arts and culture scene, as well as an essential hub during the Fringe every August. Spread over two hectares, Summerhall is made up of several buildings and is home to over 110 businesses, including the much-loved Royal Dick pub, Barney’s Beer, Pickering’s Gin distillery, community radio station EHFM and numerous other festivals and artist studios.

“In 2011, buying the old Vet School Buildings was ambitious,” says Robert McDowell, director of Summerhall Management Ltd and also involved in Oesselmann Estate Ltd. “A small team worked with me to bring in some of the best arts in Edinburgh, especially during the festivals and throughout the year, including the Science Festival and others such as year-round arts and music programmes. I am so proud to say that I have been part of building a space that captures the original spirit of the festival and has, over the years, provided a space for artists, makers and creators to play, build and grow .

“My hope is that with the new owners purchasing the building, Summerhall will be strengthened for the future – and continue its wonderfully extraordinary activities, new investment and strength for the next decade and beyond….”

In a perfect world, Summerhall would be bought by people who want to continue the great work happening in this wonderful institution. However, the wording of the statement from CuthbertWhite, the real estate consultants responsible for the sale, does not sound promising. “We are delighted to bring this to the open market and expect significant interest in this property from a wide range of domestic and international parties,” said CuthbertWhite in the press release shared by Summerhall. “It is an important landmark in Edinburgh’s history and enjoys an enviable location overlooking The Meadows.”

All of this sounds euphemistically as if Summerhall could become apartments or student housing at some point, and the prospect of that is chilling. For the sake of the culture of Edinburgh and all the excellent people and businesses who work at Summerhall, we hope this does not happen.