It is one of Scotland's most historic entertainment venues having played host to a host of top entertainers from Andy Stewart, a young Lena Zavaroni and an up-and-coming young comedian by the name of Billy Connolly.

In its heydey, the unique example of 1930’s seaside architecture was enjoyed by tens of thousands of tourists from home and abroad who sailed “doon the watter” for summer sunshine on the Isle of Bute.

The Rothesay Pavilion, designed by James Carrick in 1938 is regarded as one of the finest examples in Scotland of the international modernist style. Some say it has earned a place alongside acknowledged Scottish architectural icons, including Bute’s gothic mansion Mount Stuart House and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

But it has been shut for six years and a re-opening has been limbo for over two years as the process of restoration to return it to its 1930s Art Deco glory has stalled over and over again.

In the meantime the costs have nearly doubled from initial estimates of £8m.

It had been announced in 2019 that that the “jewel in Bute’s heritage” would re-open its doors in the summer of the same year.

The plan was to turn it into a cultural and community hub, with the aim of creating a tourism attraction for Bute and the wider area, with organisers saying it would be a “significant catalyst for regeneration and change on the island”.

When complete, it was to see the creation of four separate spaces: a main hall capable of seating up to 800 people; a self-contained studio theatre space for 100; a flexible exhibition area and a unique glazed top floor with spectacular views for weddings and other bespoke events.

But the refurbishment of the building, which has been exposed to the salty air of the Firth of Clyde since opening in 1938 and was placed on the “buildings at risk” register in 2010, has since been dogged by issues as a result of weather, construction issues, the insolvency of a contractor and the pandemic.

Now the container ship that caused global disruption after blocking the Suez canal earlier this year has been identified as one of the factors which could further hold up the completion of Rothesay’s new Pavilion.


Argyll and Bute Council’s deputy leader Gary Mulvaney has said in a report that work remains ongoing to ensure that the building can safely be finished.

While the Rothesay Pavilion website indicates a re-opening this year - the council before the concerns about the container ship estimated it would not be completed until the summer of next year.

Mr Mulvaney has indicated that there could be even more delays, as there are issues because the construction industry was facing “unprecedented pressures” through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The blockage of the Suez Canal in March,eof the biggest traffic jams in shipping history was also a factor as it delayed the delivery of materials.

In May, last year, the resurrection of the Pavilion hit a major blow after Central Building Contractors, the main builders on the £15m project went ito administration.

And so far there has been no sign of replacement contractors to carry the work through.

Before that the council, which owns the building said attempts to open in the summer of 2019 were put back because a month before it was due to open its doors it emerged that only 52 per cent of the work had been completed.

Project manager Jonathan Miles said it was primarily caused due to works including undercroft excavation, roof replacement, cast stone repairs and cast stone coping replacement, not having progressed as swiftly as thought due to weather and "complexity challenges".

He said that despite the main contractors’ best endeavours, maintaining the water tightness and integrity of the structure had been "challenging".

There was also concern that asbestos in the existing main hall ceiling was in a far worse condition than surveys led the council to believe.

Mr Mulvaney, who is the council's policy lead for financial services and major projects said they had been involved in detailed negotiations with a major construction contractor to take on the rest of the work.

"Our initial engagement with them has enabled their appointment to undertake ‘preconstruction activities’. This is where they will work closely with our inhouse team and our design consultants to further develop our specific technical and contractual requirements for completing the refurbishment of the Rothesay Pavilion," he said.

“The construction sector globally is facing unprecedented pressures arising due to a number of factors including the Covid pandemic and the recent blockage of the Suez Canal which, taken in combination, have impacted upon the availability and material and transportation costs for core construction resources, materials, plant and equipment.”

He added: "As part of the pre-construction activities, the preferred contractor is undertaking an extensive market engagement exercise with its established supply chain, such that later this year it will be able to submit to us its price and programme of activities to complete the works."

In July, 2019, Rothesay Pavilion had a video created as part of a countdown to re-opening.

The Pavilion, while having played host to seaside entertainment shows such as wrestling and the Miss Rotheseay pageant, in more recent times played host to bands such as the acclaimed Scots post-rock band Mogwai.

The council felt that the relaunch would play a pivotal role in the island’s economic regeneration and social inclusion initiatives through increased tourism and an elevated national and international profile.

Ambitions for future programming include artistic collaborations and accessible community workshops, offering wide appeal across generational boundaries and diverse cultural tastes.

It aimed to host national and international music, comedy, theatre and dance acts, as well as showing major exhibitions of history, photography and visual arts.