Surgeons Quarter sales manager Elizabeth Squair  and Niall Dewar, deputy head of front of house and customer services at Festival Theatre
Surgeons Quarter sales manager Elizabeth Squair and Niall Dewar, deputy head of front of house and customer services at Festival Theatre

Famous Edinburgh landmarks unite as conference venue

Two of Edinburgh’s most iconic Old Town institutions are joining forces in a move that is set to deliver a multi-million-pound boost into the heart of the city.

The prestigious Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) and the Festival Theatre are pooling their resources to create a one-stop ‘large conference destination’ with unrivalled character – utilising the best qualities of some of the capital’s finest settings.

In sharing their space and expertise, the ambitious venues will be able to manage conferences for up to 750 delegates, which has the potential to generate significant income for the city.

The established conference business at the College is managed by its commercial arm, Surgeons Quarter and already hosts more than 1,000 events per year 30 of which have in excess of 250 attendees.

Enabling access to the auditorium at the Festival Theatre, which has a seating capacity of over 1900 – along with Scotland’s largest stage – positions the stunning venues as a new and distinctly different option for larger conferences.

Surgeons Quarter sales manager Elizabeth Squair and Niall Dewar, deputy head of front of house and customer services at Festival Theatre

Moira Walker, marketing manager for Surgeons Quarter, said: ‘The benefits that our collaboration will bring to Edinburgh are not just financial; these conferences draw in some of the brightest minds from across the world.

‘They give our local industry leaders the chance to share work with, and learn from, key players in a variety of fields.

‘In keeping with our setting, our venues offer soul and character – qualities that are so often missed in large-scale purpose-built centres.

‘We’re located directly across from the Festival Theatre, and in true neighbourly style, we’ve established a solid working relationship over the years.’

The combined offering is being marketed at destinations across the world, from Las Vegas to Frankfurt, thanks to Surgeons Quarter sales manager, Elizabeth Squair, who is tasked with driving associated business. Elizabeth will also promote this unique product in Dubai at an ICCA event which Surgeons Quarter is now delighted to be a member of.

Interested parties are being encouraged to make enquiries as early as possible given the theatre’s busy programme of events.

Niall Dewar, deputy head of front of house and customer services at Festival Theatre, said: ‘This is a huge opportunity as it opens up a market and revenue stream otherwise unavailable to us.

‘For CEOs and speakers of a more theatrical nature, we’re hopeful the prospect of presenting on the largest stage in Scotland will be hugely appealing.”

‘Each of our combined spaces are completely unique and cover every need of any conference – from the main event held here, through to a huge arrange of options for the post-conference social programme.

Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre is now available as a conference venue

‘In collaborating we can offer the true character of Edinburgh, while fitting around the practical requirements that conference organisers face in the city centre.’

Edinburgh’s World Heritage status, modest size and unrivalled beauty makes it a highly desirable city for business trips and conferences.
But, as its distinguished title was awarded for its protected green space, and old traditional buildings that were not designed for big gatherings of this style, many of the capital’s larger conference settings find themselves on the outskirts of the city.

Amanda Ferguson, head of business tourism at Marketing Edinburgh, said: ‘This agreement between RCSEd and Festival Theatre is a forward-thinking, professional relationship that will see Edinburgh able to offer high-class service in the heart of the Old Town.

‘Economically, this is a big deal for the capital. Conference bookings of this size see the monetary benefits ricochet throughout the city, reaching beyond the traditional tourism sector and benefitting Edinburgh’s many industry sectors – facilitating international connections, collaboration and even inward investment.

‘The capital is fast making a name for itself as the place to be for conferences and events and it’s excellent to see these organisations helping further enhance that reputation.’

The RCSEd itself boasts historic and modern buildings including its own four-star hotel, Ten Hill Place, which is currently undergoing a major expansion from 77 to 129 rooms.

The College offers the King Khalid building, the Quincentenary Building, the Playfair Building and the Prince Phillip building totalling 16 events spaces, all superbly fitted out with a range of resources to cover all needs.

Meanwhile, Festival Theatre Edinburgh is hardly short of history, with a stunning 1928 art deco auditorium fronted by a sleek and contemporary front of house located on Edinburgh’s longest continuous theatre site, where over a century of famous acts have graced the stage.

Surgeons Quarter is tasked with making the most of the RCSEd’s impressive buildings, with profits being invested back into the College, which delivers life-changing surgical skills to every corner of the world.

Launched in 2006, the recently rebranded Surgeons Quarter team promotes, sells and manages conferences, corporate events, weddings and other events across the College’s buildings. It has also helped establish the College as a Festival-Fringe venue and last August hosted seven theatres frequented by 75,000 customers, while also delivering significant food and beverage sales.