Further delays mean Mareel will not be taking bookings until March next year

The controversial £12 million cinema and music venue Mareel is unlikely to open until next year and will not be taking bookings until March, it emerged this week.

While Shetland Arts had pre­viously announced that the building would be open by September this year, instead of the spring as origin­ally planned, ongoing wrangles with sub-contractors mean the handover will probably now be towards the end of this year although no date has yet been agreed between lead contractor DITT and Shetland Arts.

Attendees at a Mareel stake­holders’ meeting on Wednesday night heard that the construction issues were continuing to cause delays and that while the building was prog­ressing, it was still not yet wind and watertight.

As has previously been reported, problems with the roofing contractor TM Dallas, which went into admin­istration in March, have meant work has been pushed back and that rooms which could have been insulated are still waiting for the material to be installed.

In a press release promoting the visit to Shetland in March next year for the first time of the Royal Scot­tish National Orchestra (RSNO), issued today, Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons said the visit would “coincide with the opening season of Mareel”.

At the stakeholders’ meeting he said that the hold ups were “immen­sely frustrating” for everyone invol­ved, but that the upcoming RSNO events would be included in an open­ing programme and that book­ings were not being taken before March.

He said: “We don’t have a con­crete opening date but the RSNO events will either be at the beginning, middle or the end of a programme of opening events.”

Despite the hold ups, work inside the building is however progressing: power is now live in the parts of the building which are watertight; the structure for the seating in the larger of the two cinemas is currently being installed, as are fibre optic cables and district heating; and the control rooms which will house technical controls for the lighting and sound are complete.

The venue’s website, which will include ticket sales, event informa­tion and multimedia and social net­working capabilities is to go live in October. Before then a holding website will be put online in around eight weeks’ time.

About Louise Thomason

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32 comments

  1. SYLVIA

    anyone surprised?!

    Reply
  2. Ian McCormack

    Mareel…… shetlands very own millenium dome!!!!! a total waste of money. and while the education department for primary schools have to save £5 million pounds over the next 3 years, this monstrosity drinks our money like its water!!! the council should save money by just saying enough is enough with the building of this thing. Let it stand as a monument to the silly decisions made by this useless council, so that future councils can see what happens when you make stupid decisions.
    Education for our children and schools MUST come 1st before this unneeded monstrosity.
    Rant over……………..

    Reply
  3. Mareel is owned and will be run by Shetland Arts, we are an independent charity. Delays in the opening of Mareel have no financial impact on Council funds. The Council’s contribution to the capital costs (the build) are fixed at a level agreed pre construction and those funds have now almost been spent. Half of the construction cost is coming from sources out with Shetland. No funds can be recovered from stopping the build. If a change of use was considered, an additional £6m would be required to pay off external funders. Further, the Council has committed no funds to the running of the venue and nor do we expect them too.

    Reply
  4. Ian McCormack

    I just think its a proper waste of money, the “cinema” at the garrison is hardly used, there are adequate recording facilities to do CD’s ect, and the clickamin is a great venue for large gigs!! Shetland simply doesn’t need this monstrosity in these finantual climates.
    Ive never voiced my opinion on this subject before, But I just feel disapointed that the council gave anything to this. Its an eyesore of a building, our childrens education must come 1st, and even music lessons for free have been chopped.
    what possible good is this place gonna do for Shetland. How do you intend to run the building, if not with the usual subsidies. Is the Shetland Arts Trust really gonna run this business without outside help? I think not!!

    Reply
  5. Leslie Lowes

    You have made a number of incorrect assumptions assumptions about Mareel, Ian and I will try to put some of them right.

    First, It will be capable of far more than just providing “recording facilities to do CDs,” as you seem to think.. As a centre for creative industries, it will also be involved in music education at further and eventually higher education levels. Recording engineers, technicians, editors and producers will be able to train there.

    Not all music events need a venue as large as Clickimin and Mareel will provide a more intimate live music experiences in a performance venue designed for that purpose, which is also acoustically designed to deliver top rate sound quality. It also has a sprung floor, which Shetland dancers will surely appreciate when the take to the floor on dance nights, but for dancers wanting professional dance facilities, there’s also a dance studio with full length mirrors and rail.

    Mareel will also provide two cinema screens making a choice of films possible. The Garrison has served reasonably well as a temporary cinema, but it has theatre, not cinema sightlines and they are not the same as cinema sightlines. Films at the Garrison do return a profit for Shetland Arts and professional programming will make sure the cinemas make a return for Mareel, with “first release” runs. However Mareel will also be equipped with state of the art digital cinema projectors which give superb definition on screen and dolby sound, but can also project he latest 3-D films as well as live programming beamed out by satellite from other venues. You may not be a keen cinemagoer yourself Ian, but many of us have been waiting years to see a proper cinema in Shetland and now we are getting one that will provide top quality family entertainment on two Mareel screens.

    Mareel has to make a profit Ian, because it has been designed from the start not to require subsidy, which is fortunate, because over the next few years every penny of public finance is going to be tightly squeezed , so one of Mareel’s benefits will be that it will not be making future calls on public funds. The plans for this have been rigorously tested on many occasions. Even tested using worse case scenarios, the plan has stood up well. and proved to be a robust model.

    I remember when Clickimin was being planned there were plenty of sceptics who said it was a waste of money, but I have not heard any of them recently – and look how Shetland’s sporting prowess has grown in the intervening years. Try telling any of our young athletes or Island Games team members that it was all a waste of time and money building Clickimin and you would probebly get some interesting replies!

    You are entitled to your views of course, Ian, but please do check your facts to make sure they are not incorrect assumptions. I can assure you also that there a great many people who support Mareel and support it strongly who have never waivered in that support. These are the people who will be making sure Mareel is successful and will serve these islands well for many years to come. I am very proud to be one of them.

    Reply
  6. Maggie Flockhart

    I do not understand why this was thought to be a good idea in the first place. As already discussed other venues are available throughout Lerwick for all events, most from my understanding, very rarely filled to capacity. I note that no comment has been raised regarding the design of the Mareel or the possible difficulties that this has posed. I also wonder what difficulties are being encountered between the builders and the architect. The building does appear to be extremely complicated from the outside. An architect of this vision may well have difficulty in making the dream and reality come together.
    It could be time to say enough is enough and ensure this building is finished as soon as possible to see if any of the outlay can be re-couped. It is my feeling that this will be extremely difficult to do.

    Reply
  7. Peter Marwick

    Yep, Shetland Arts, it’s too late to stop this colossal waste of Shetlanders’ money, it has already gone. That doesn’t make it the right decision, but it’s done now.

    What we can hope for – maybe forlornly – is that no more public money is spent on this white elephant. If Shetland Arts come looking for any more money, the SIC must send them packing. If their ‘business plan’ cannot sustain the running of Mareel, it must close.

    Have we ever had a firm, binding commitment from Shetland Arts and the SIC that no money will be provided (or accepted) for ongoing running costs, regardless of the excuses given at the time? Will you pledge to allow Mareel to stop operating rather than accept more public money, as that would be a clear indication that your business plan has failed?

    Reply
  8. James Moir

    The Mareel will eventually be a great source of pride for all people living in Shetland. Having a building designed specifically for certain purposes is going to be far more rewarding than having to make do with Clickimin or the Garrison Theatre. Sitting next to the Shetland Museum the buildings naturally complement each other and form a cultural centre for all forms of the Arts as well as the history of the Islands.

    How many times in the not to distant past have people criticized plans, especially those regarding arts and sports. The Clickimin centre, the outlying sports centres, The previousTall Ships Event, The Shetland Museum. All these were once derided as a waste of money but are now looked on with great pride by nearly everyone. How poorer would the quality of life be for most islanders without the Clickimin complex, or the magnificent Shetland Museum.

    It is right that large projects and expenditures be debated and questioned, especially in the current economic climate, and believe me when i say that reading the Shetland Times, and Shetland News daily, I am only too aware of the embarrassing wasting of money and reputations in recent years. However, the Mareel, in my opinion, is not one of these. It is long overdue and a welcome addition and fitting tribute to the arts and culture of Shetland

    Reply
  9. Ted Knight

    Did anyone vote for Shetland’s current Arts Director; the man with an almost unpronouncable name and unfortunate PR record to boot?

    Mareel seems to be a disaster of gigantic proportions in the making. Nothing new on Fantasy Island, but very, very sad.

    Reply
  10. Ted Knight

    Tell me, Shetland Arts, which part of WHITE ELEPHANT, in the context of Mareel, totally escapes your powers of deduction or understanding?

    Reply
  11. Ian McCormack

    Spending that amount of money for “intimate” gigs is a HUGE waste of money, you are not going to change my mind on that. Also, can people not train to be sound engineers in college anymore, and as for learning music at “Higher” level, This should be something that is provided by the schools, But nooooooo, thats no good enough is it. As for the springy dance floor, you can get a trampoline cheeper at argos so that dusnae ring realistic wi me. someone is wasting money on their fantisies!!!!!
    I love the cinema, and go when I can when sooth, But the last cinima here, I beleive was in the old Northstar, and went bust as a result of no one really going.
    I have no doubt maureel will be a huge success for the 1st wee while, then it will see support fade, untill this too shuts down, and hey mayby the council will buy it for their new offices.
    Schools should provide education, country halls are good enough for “intimate” gigs, and the garrison should have remained a cimima option too.
    BUT as Peter Marwick has rightly said….. Shetland Arts, it’s too late to stop this colossal waste of Shetlanders’ money, it has already gone. That doesn’t make it the right decision, but it’s done now.

    Reply
  12. Leslie Lowes

    Peter, your judgement is premature. I think we need to give Mareel time to succeed before we decide whether the business plan has failed or not. It has been tested many times in worst case scenarios, inside and outside Shetland Arts Development Agency and it has always proven to be robust.

    The current delay problems are in most part caused because some specialist sub-contractors ran into difficulties, Maggie. Main contractor DITT have been taking steps to solve these problems. Once the building is handed over to Shetland Arts they will soon begin earning revenue from it and then we may all wonder what all the fuss was about.

    Give it a chance people, before you condemn it out of hand.

    Reply
  13. Ron Stronach

    I saw the building site in June last year, I saw it again in January this year, it didnt look any diffenrt to be honest, it appears its still not water tight, that must be a problem in Shetland?

    Planning appears to be a little remiss. I do hope its a success when its finished. I look forward to seeing it in its full glory? – Eventually.

    Reply
  14. Colin Hunter

    Only if you attain the age of Methuselah I expect!

    Reply
  15. Peter Marwick

    Leslie, I don’t think I’ve judged anything. I merely asked for a pledge from the SIC and Shetland Arts that Mareel would be given, and accept, no more money should their business plan fail.

    With such a robust, well-tested business plan you’d think they’d be happy to make that pledge…

    Reply
  16. Ted Knight

    Ron Stronach:

    “Eventually” we shall all be dead.

    Reply
  17. Ron Stronach

    Thanks Ted, that’s really cheered me up!
    Mareel is getting a bit like the Lerwick Swimming Pool in the 1960’s. But then the council didn’t have millions to throw at it in those days, so the Warry Geo served the purpose!

    Reply
  18. Leslie Lowes

    Pater, You wrote “…it’s too late to stop this colossal waste of Shetlanders’ money,..”

    Your “collosal waste” is a subjective judgement, made by you. Others take issue with your judgement. As for pledges, Shetland councillors have already said many times that there will be no revenue support for Mareel. That’s why it is planned to be self-supporting. That is why it has been planned and programmed the way it has been, so as to be self supporting.

    Only half the Mareel capital cost was money from Shetland Islands Council, who asked Shetland Arts to develop Mareel. The other half half came from Scottish Arts (now Creative Scotland) Highland and Islands Enterprise, Lottery Funding and various trusts. Each of these funders had to be satisfied on a number of criteria that the project was a sound and sensible investment and also achievable, this includes business plans. These organisations don’t make investments like this easily.

    Reply
  19. Robert Sim

    Mareel appears to have a clear and robust business plan and will provide facilities and resources we don’t already have and certainly to a standard we don’t have – as clearly and ably explained by Leslie Lowes. It has also been explained on this page that SIC funding is accounted for and is only one aspect of the financing of Mareel. That sounds like a well-planned and managed project to me (the delay, which the article makes much of, is a blip which is to be expected in these sorts of projects). Perhaps its critics could turn their attention to other situations where these characteristics are not exhibited? That might be a better use of energy.

    Reply
  20. Maurice Smith

    When Mareel is said to be ‘self-supporting’ does that exclude the possibility that funds will have to be diverted from other Shetland Arts projects, or is Mareel to be genuinely self-supporting?

    If you’ve been afloat in the right conditions, you’ll know that the real mareel is a pretty but very short-lived phenomenon.

    Maurice Smith

    Reply
  21. Peter Marwick

    Leslie, you wrote “Peter, your judgement is premature. I think we need to give Mareel time to succeed before we decide whether the business plan has failed or not.” I read that as you stating my judgement on the business plan was premature, if I misunderstood I apologise.

    Me calling the money already spent on Mareel a colossal waste is, of course, subjective. Regardless of how much money – if any – it needs from the SIC to continue, others will make the subjective analysis that it was not a waste of money. Given that the investment from the SIC is not a loan, why should I not be able to make a judgement on whether my money was well spent?

    Regardless of the robustness of the business plan, Shetland will not get that money back. It has gone. I call that a waste, others will think differently. It would be a poorer World if we all agreed on everything.

    I remember the SIC saying many times that there was no intention to continue funding Mareel, I sincerely hope that remains the case.

    Reply
  22. Update on Mareel construction with loads of images here: http://tinyurl.com/3qankno

    Reply
  23. Colin Hunter

    In order for Mareel to make any money, let alone break even, Shetland Arts are going to have an up-hill struggle to fill the place on a regular basis. There are, after all, only 22,000 of us here for them to go at, and out of those there will be a large number who, like myself, aren’t much bothered about “going out”. There will be as many again who, due to family circumstances are unable to find the time to go. Lastly, those who, due to limited and rapidly diminishing “disposable” income, just simply cannot afford either the entrance fee or the £15 or more of fuel just getting to Lerwick. Then there’s the isles folk with even bigger obstacles to overcome. Both logistical AND financial!
    I can remember a neighbour remarking to me a few years ago about the cost of a trip into Lerwick, from Brae, ( Him, Wife & 3 kids) to see a film at the Garrison. To add insult to injury, someone reversed into his car and drove off without leaving any details!
    There will doubtless be a great number of people who, at the beginning, will go just in order to see where all the money has gone, and after they discover it’s nothing special probably won’t bother again, leading to a rapid downward spiral into insolvency. A workmate of mine once asked me if I would go if there was someone appearing that I really liked. I told him it would take more than the efforts of Shetland Arts to get Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash on the stage again, and about as much chance of making it pay!

    Reply
  24. Leslie Lowes

    A very good point Maurice. It would not be an appropriate or sensible strategy to divert Shetland Arts general funding into Mareel.

    Mareel has to be self-supporting and although managed by SADA, its accounts are separated from Shetland Arts general funding and this will certainly continue.

    Shetland Arts has already had a number of budget reductions from its principle funders, SIC and Creative Scotland. It has also voluntarily refunded some of its agreed budget from the Charitable Trust when that body was restructuring its finances. Hard work from staff and trustees of SADA still managed a strong and innovative arts programme across Shetland.

    Mareel will give the agency new and exciting opportunities to deliver arts activities and boost Shetland’s creative industries, but a Shetland-wide comprehensive arts programme will still have to be delivered across the islands some, but not all, in conjunction with Mareel.

    There have also been some unseemly comments about Director of Shetland Arts, Gwilym Gibbons. As a SADA trustee I can assure you that we are very lucky to have him. All my colleagues on the arts trust respect his professionalism and feel Gwilym is doing an excellent job in managing the agency. He enjoys our full support.

    With regard to Peter Marwick thinking I have objection to him making a judgement on any matter he wants to; I do not. I actually said his judgement, about Mareel having been a waste of money, was premature. I hope this clears up any confusion for you Peter and I hope you and other Mareel doubters, will put your value judgement on hold until Mareel is finished and it is operating.

    Reply
  25. David Spence

    Let’s not forget the success or failure of Mareel is not all down to Shetland Arts.

    It’s multitude of facilities will be (as I understand it) available for all to hire and use to show/promote/record as their imaginations see fit.

    Lifting from a previous comment – if you are a Johnny Cash fan, don’t sit back and wait for Shetland Arts to read your mind, why not look in to putting on a showing of one of his many live shows? Sure, it’s never going to be like the real thing but wouldn’t you enjoy a full concert from the man in black booming through a state of the art sound system with the atmosphere only a group of like minded people can provide?

    I would..

    Reply
  26. Maggie Flockhart

    I have read with interest all the input on the Mareel and taken onboard the differing points of view. I have also spent some considerable time pondering over the photographs of the Mareel taken on the 22nd June and read the information given by Shetland Arts. I have already posted a comment regarding the Mareel and feel having seen the photographs today and having read others comments I would like to make a few observations again.
    Firstly I am glad to say I was not one of the people who made negative comments regarding the Clickimin Centre when it was being built and nor did I find the Warrie Geo as the ideal place to learn to swim. I have always supported any project where I could see the benefit for all of the Shetland population including the ability of these projects to ensure they were accessible to all by being able to put in place reduced rates of entry to their establishments.
    The Shetland Arts make much of their plans for the Mareel being rigoroulsy tested and even the worst case scenarios stand up well. Did these scenarios take into consideration being able to reduce the costs to families on reduced income? What is the worst case scenario?
    What surveys were undertaken to gather information regarding the need for two cinemas to provide top quality family entertainment? My family were not asked and I know no one who was.
    It is stated that half of the Mareel capital cost came from the SIC so from that I would deduce there was a budget set for the Mareel. The rest has come from various other funders. Is this funding the completion of the building as my understanding is that this project has run well over budget already.
    I have studied the photographs and I do not profess to have any great knowledge on a building of this size however to an untrained eye it all looks quite a shambles and I find little to raise my hopes that this is running to any schedule. If this is as far as the Mareel has come in this length of time I think rose tinted glasses have been much to the fore while taking the photos and posting the accompanying information. I for one would not be considering making a booking at this venue until the building has been signed of as being completed and safe for use.
    I have already raised the issue of the architect and architecture of this building. It would appear that a specialist roofing company and a specialist glazing company was required and both have gone into liquidation leaving DITT to pick up the pieces. Would it not have been better to have chosen a design more sympathetic to the local surroundings and for all of the building to have been completed by one firm. Surely this would have saved a great deal of money and a great deal of angst. I wonder if Shetland Arts were driven by a need to make a statement rather than making a sensible decision on the design of the building.
    I also wonder if anyone is clearly at the helm of this project and sticking to the original design or are changes being made on a regular basis causing overspends and delays in completion. There is no point in pretending all is well if it is not.

    Reply
  27. Maggie, I will do my best to respond to your questions. Apologies for the brevity but I’m pushed for time. If you, or any one else, wish to discuss matters in more detail, please feel free to contact Shetland Arts at info@shetlandarts.org

    “Families on reduced income?” – there will be a range of price points for events which will reflect supply and demand i.e. lower prices during less busy periods (weekday afternoons, for example) and higher costs during peak times. There will be, as with most Shetland Arts events, a concessionary rate for tickets too. Wherever possible, programming will tie in with public transport.

    “What is the worst case scenario?” – the scenario planning is rather complex to boil down into a sentence or two, but basically the worst-case is one where attendances drop to the lowest level of projections. These projections are based on a wide range of local and national statistics and have been widely reviewed.

    “What surveys were undertaken to gather information regarding the need for two cinemas to provide top quality family entertainment?” – The inclusion of a second screen was a specific requirement of one of the funders, in order to offer choice to cinema goers and allow for less populist films to be shown concurrently with ‘blockbusters’. The second cinema was designed with several uses in mind, such as the lecture room for the education courses, an editing suite for film production and an area for masterclasses by visiting artists etc.

    “my understanding is that this project has run well over budget already.” – there is a rigorous project management process in place maintaining a tight rain on changes and costs. The project is not over budget at this time.

    “to an untrained eye it all looks quite a shambles and I find little to raise my hopes that this is running to any schedule.” – as someone who worked in the construction industry on the mainland for several years, I can assure you that Mareel is a well run site.

    “a specialist roofing company and a specialist glazing company was required and both have gone into liquidation leaving DITT to pick up the pieces.” – It is standard practice for the main contractors to subcontract to a range of firms on projects of all scales, and delays of this nature are also common with large constructions.

    Regarding the design of the building, I’m aware it isn’t to some people’s tastes. However, it is, by its very nature, a complex building designed with functionality in mind.

    I hope the above goes some way to address your questions.

    Reply
  28. Maggie Flockhart

    Well well everything seems to be honky dorey then, no overspend, building progressing as stipulated at the beginning of the process, well run site, functional building, plans in place to be able to provide for all levels of income, (did wonder about the example of weekday afternoons, my understanding is that children are usually in school at this time) no chance of the worst case scenario ever happening and the second cinema offering much needed space for a range of highly saught after activities unable to be accomodated anywhere else in Shetland.
    Good show.

    Reply
  29. L Farmer

    We’ll do our best to support Mareel when it opens. I’m sure all involved will work hard to make it a success. Right or wrong it must work ! Lets all stop moaning and move on. Our recent successes in inter-county sports, etc. could be a testament to our brilliant leisure facilities, perhaps in future we might see Mareel in a similar light.

    Reply
  30. Ali Inkster

    I read on Shetlink that the “arts are worth £millions each year to the Shetland economy and that Shetland Arts included architects in this overall financial windfall.
    What a pity it is then that Shetland Arts couldn’t find it in themselves to use a SHETLAND ARCHITECT for the design of Mareel. Maybe then all these problems caused by over elaborate design features would have been avoided.
    But right from the start with Mareel Shetland Arts have proven that they are not here to support or nurture Shetland talent but massage their own inflated egos.

    Reply
  31. Tom Williamson

    Think about it this way…dream if you like but in, say ten to tweleve years time we could have a brand new, probably the best secondary school in the UK built next to a fantastic leasure centre (how convenient is that?) A first rate cinema & music venue called Mareel and one of Europes, if not the worlds, most efficient wind farm. All backed up by a thriving tourist industry flocking to a recently rejuvinated town centre. Tescos is there on the outskirts of town providing the quality weekly shop at Mainland prices with fuel pumps situated at the old Sound Service Station providing cheap(er) fuel. I believe we would then have a problem with people wanting to move TO Shetland, not move away.

    Reply
  32. Iain Adam

    I visited Shetland last year after an absence of over 50 years, I visited the museum and was so impressed, it must be one of the best in Scotland, it is a huge sucess and so will be Mareel, just wait and see……………The moving finger writes; and, having writ moves on……

    Reply

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