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20 Years of The Hub: Interior Showcase of The Sculpture Hall

Red sculpture hall at the hub on the royal mile

Built in the 1840s, our building at the top of the Royal Mile inevitably has a great depth of history. Originally built as The Victoria Hall, The Hub, Edinburgh’s Festival Centre opened to the public in 1999. Twenty years later we’ve reflected back at some of the rooms and interiors of our venue in Edinburgh so that you can understand the history, art and architecture involved in our unique venue in 2019.

There are few venues in the heart of the Royal Mile that telegraph their commitment to art and culture quite as much as The Hub. One space that connects all areas is the remarkable Sculpture Hall, painted a deep and vivid red, and festooned with sculptures celebrating the Edinburgh Festival.

The sculptures are lively and whimsical, arranged across plinths around and above the main staircase. They rise up to the vaulted Pugin ceiling, painted a contrasting royal blue with detail picked out in red. It makes a stunning (even startling) backdrop for wedding photographs and is a bold and exciting space in its own right, benefiting from generous landing spaces and the halfway split of the staircase into two. It allows for creative and individual photography to mark special occasions and celebratory moments.

Edinburgh-born sculptor Jill Watson painting the red sculpture hall at The Hub on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
Painting the Sculpture Hall

As with The Hub’s other public areas, the Sculpture Hall highlights the work of a superb artist. The sculptures, in their myriad variety, were created by Edinburgh-born sculptor Jill Watson. She created 230 figures, mostly about 45cm high, representing 50 years of music, dance, opera and theatre.  Among the figures are hidden a self-portrait along with that of The Hub revival’s architect and builder. It is a playful nod to the carved faces often left behind by medieval masons as they toiled on great buildings of worship. The figures have their own appreciative audience above them, also created by Jill as part of the work, tying in the festival theme. The freestyle approach and use of plaster to create the sculptures gives a sense of having frozen the performers mid-movement. To get the full sense of what’s there would take quite a few trips up and down the staircase, and probably requires refreshment at Cafe Hub afterwards!

Jill now spends much of her time in Italy, but her work can also be seen at the end of the Royal Mail decorating the great gates of the Queens Gallery, maintaining her connection with architect Ben Tindall, who was behind The Hub’s renovation.

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