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Bright future for the Lemon Tree as new plans unveiled for the iconic Aberdeen venue


By David Porter

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Transformational plans to redevelop and upgrade legendary Aberdeen venue the Lemon Tree have moved on to the next stage after an outline scheme was approved.

In September 2021, the arts charity Aberdeen Performing Arts, with support from Aberdeen City Council and Scottish Enterprise, commissioned Richard Murphy Architects to undertake a feasibility study to look at options for upgrading the iconic city venue which has played host to names such as Radiohead, Snow Patrol, Jamie Cullum, Travis, Texas, Mogwai, Public Service Broadcasting and Emeli Sandé, and is an unmissable destination on the national touring circuit for the performing arts.

At a recent Board meeting, Aberdeen Performing Arts unanimously adopted the proposed scheme and agreed to move to the next stage of design development with a view to submitting an application for planning consent by the end of the year.

Jane Spiers Aberdeen Performing Arts chief executive said: “2022 is the 30th anniversary of the Lemon Tree.

"In that time, it has built up an enviable reputation nationally and internationally for discovering tomorrow’s legends today and supporting homegrown talent.

"Today the work on the stage is diverse, exciting and relevant.

"It is the festival hub for the city, the home of the hugely popular A Play, A Pie and A Pint, Aberdeen’s youth arts festival Light the Blue and our community outreach programmes.

" The plans retain the informal, friendly, intimate, off-beat style and story that is so unique to the Lemon Tree and are focussed on creating a more accessible, integrated environment and experience for audiences, artists and employees alike.”

The plans include an extension to create a new studio, foyer, café, meeting space and a new, accessible entrance on Shoe Lane.

New, external seating and performance space is proposed within an urban cottage garden. The much loved Lemon Tree Lounge and Lemon Tree Studio will remain but will be upgraded to improve staging, sightlines, technical facilities and access.

The plans for the Lemon Tree align with Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to regenerate the city centre.

They put culture at the heart of economic recovery and community wellbeing to bring tangible benefits to a re-imagined Queen Street development.

Aberdeen City Council Co-Leaders, councillor Nicoll and councillor Yuill said: “We look forward to discussing with Aberdeen Performing Arts how we might work together to regenerate Queen Street.”

Scottish Enterprise Head of Place in the North East, Matt Lockley, said: “The Lemon Tree is an iconic part of the culture and economy of Aberdeen and Scottish Enterprise has been proud to support the development plans in getting to this stage.

“We’re really excited to see the plans develop further from here and for the creative and cultural sector in the North East to continue to flourish.”

The proposals are welcomed by Culture Aberdeen, a partnership of cultural organisations in the city. Dr Duncan Cockburn, Chair of Culture Aberdeen said:

“Culture Aberdeen welcomes this transformational project to upgrade and expand the Lemon Tree, one of Scotland’s most iconic venues, at the heart of cultural and community life within Aberdeen. Aberdeen Performing Arts has consulted the cultural sector in Aberdeen to develop a scheme that will fill much needed gaps within the city’s cultural facilities including new studio and rehearsal space.

"This development has the potential to be a distinctive feature of the Aberdeen economic development story in the years to come and within it we see great opportunity for arts and culture, artists and creative practitioners to help shape and drive the next chapters of Aberdeen’s story.”

Richard Murphy Architects is a multi award winning practice based in Scotland and working internationally. The practice works across all sectors, health, education, residential, commercial and has a strong portfolio of transformational arts and cultural projects including the Stirling Tolbooth, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre Peebles, Perth Theatre and the New National Centre for Music in Edinburgh.

Aberdeen Performing Arts Chair Craig Pike said: “The Lemon Tree has a special place in Aberdeen’s story and we are now setting the stage for a bright future which will benefit communities, business and the cultural sector in the city. Aberdeen Performing Arts has pledged to get the fundraising campaign underway, we hope everyone will join us on the journey and get behind this exciting project for the city and nation.”


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