Edinburgh Doors Open Day, Part 1

Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day began in frustrating and disappointing fashion. The Edinburgh Blog arrived at Donaldson’s School along with hordes of other people, on the Lothian Bus, just before 1030 in the morning. Just thirty minutes after the advertised opening time the queue was snaking along the whole length of Donaldson’s School: there were literally thousands of people wanting to see inside this grand building before it is turned into apartments.

Monstrous queue outside Donaldson's School for Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2007 Donaldson's School, Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2007

However it wasn’t to be; after one hours queuing, a lady announced that all places on the tours (which were running every 15 minutes and taking only 20 people) had been allocated. I dare say that people were arriving at Donaldson’s School right up to 4pm, as it wasn’t clear (from the brochure) only a limited number of tickets were available.

It’s hard to criticise events like this because of their voluntary nature, which we’re all grateful for. However some better system could have been employed i.e. tell people in the queue only 400 or so places were available, count up to the 400th person and tell the rest of the people queuing there was no point. Or anticipate demand (this being the last opportunity and all), so try and set a defined route inside the building, so many people will get to see some of the buildings interior; rather than a few people seeing much of the interior. I left disappointed at being denied the opportunity to look inside this intriguing building. Maybe CALA homes, who will redevelop Donaldson’s into apartments, could throw the doors open to the public before conversion work begins?

Luckily Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day quickly improved: the next stop was Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. We arrived about 11.45 and took the remaining places on the 12pm tour. A cheeky Ostrich burger from the Farmers Market later and we were descending the steps to The Traverse Theatre, with the theatre manager as our guide. I found the Traverse Theatre very interesting. It inspired me enough to pick up a programme with a view to watching a show or two there very soon. It was interesting to note that every penny of profit from their nice bar goes into the production funds; described by our guide as “a busy bar can mean an extra, original show being commissioned in a given year”. Also the design of the Traverse is such that performers must walk through the bar after their performance, with the emphasis very much on audience feedback.

Performers clothing at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2007 Green Room at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2007

We toured both the Traverse theatres (I became very envious of those lucky enough to see Black Watch here during the 2006 festival) and were told about their work-groups for the under 25’s and forthcoming older writers work-groups. The various stages of a plays production were also described. In the stage storage/assembly area the production manager described the wonderfully detailed scale models which are produced prior to a play and some of the challenges they face. We also got to look around the tiny, very hot dressing room and the wardrobe area, complete with sewing machines. The tour ended in the ‘Green Room’, which was hardly palatial, but you could imagine it providing a much needed respite for performers.

The final stops were Parliament House, where I ended up handcuffed in a Reliance security van, Royal Mile Primary School, the wonderfully renovated HBOS Headquarters on The Mound and Gayfield Square Police Station. Check back later in the week for a write-up.

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