Summerhall: Edinburgh arts venue to go up for sale

The owners of Edinburgh’s vital multi-arts hub Summerhall have announced plans to sell the historic building by the Meadows

Article by Jamie Dunn | 14 May 2024
  • Summerhall

For 13 years, Summerhall has been one of the most exciting multi-arts venues in the country, but its future seems uncertain today with the owners announcing their intention to sell the building

The current owners – Oesselmann Estate Limited, a company registered in the Isle of Man – have informed Summerhall Management Ltd of the planned sale, which would encompass the Summerhall building and all of its current licences. All planned events, including Summerhall's upcoming shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will take place as planned, and Summerhall Management Ltd say all existing tenant leases will remain in place, with tenants given the option to extend.

The Summerhall building was previously Edinburgh’s Royal School of Veterinary Studies, affectionately known as the Dick Vet. It was bought and turned into a multi-arts venue in 2011, and quickly became an important part of Edinburgh’s art and culture scene, as well as a vital hub during the Fringe each year in August. Spread over two acres and made up of several buildings, Summerhall houses over 110 companies, including the much-loved Royal Dick pub, Barney’s Beer, Pickering's Gin distillery, community radio station EHFM and myriad other festivals and artists' 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 alongside me to bring in some of the best arts in Edinburgh, especially during the Festivals and year-round including the Science Festival and others such as year-round art and music programmes. I am so proud to say that I have been part of building a space that adheres to the original spirit of the festival and has provided a space for artists, creators and makers to play, build and grow over the years.

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

In a perfect world, Summerhall would be bought by people who wish to continue the great work that happens in this wonderful institution. The wording of the statement from CuthbertWhite, the property consultants in charge of the sale, doesn’t sound promising though. “We are excited to be bringing this to the open market and we expect considerable interest in this property from a wide range of domestic and international parties,” say CuthbertWhite in the press release shared by Summerhall. “It is an important landmark in the history of Edinburgh, occupying an enviable location overlooking The Meadows.” 

All of which sounds euphemistically like Summerhall could, at some point, become flats or student accommodation, the prospect of which is chilling. For the culture of Edinburgh, and all the excellent people and companies who work at Summerhall, we hope that doesn’t happen.