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Staff at Haddo House concert hall ‘at risk’ after 600 bats invade backstage area

Haddo House owners the National Trust for Scotland are dealing with a bat infestation
The Canadian Hall at Haddo House has become home to a roost of about 600 bats.

Parts of a historic Aberdeenshire concert hall were declared off-limits after an invasion of bats put people “at risk”.

The flying creatures had been making their home in the control room at Haddo House’s Canadian Hall, mainly used for shows and weddings, this summer.

Experts say there were “in the region of 600” roosting in the backstage area, with some known to flap overhead during performances.

The National Trust for Scotland runs the site and says their presence was “putting users at risk” and endangering the “core purpose” of the hall.

An expert survey says there are Pipistrelle bats, like this one, nesting in the control room.

Like a bat out of Ellon

The Canadian Hall is part of the picturesque countryside estate near Ellon, most notable for Haddo House itself.

The B-listed hall south of the main house was built in 1891, inspired by community venues Lord and Lady Aberdeen saw on their tour of Canada.

The hall has been B-listed due to its significance as a “rare interpretation of a Canadian-style timber building in Scotland”.

It was originally an indoor tennis court, reading room and library for the domestic staff.

It became a concert venue after the Second World War, with the Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society making the most of its acoustics.

It's only a few weeks until the beginning of the Haddo Arts Festival 2022! (8th – 15th October)With the opening…

Posted by Haddo Arts on Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Since then, the likes of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and others have performed there.

In 2010, it was given a fresh lick of paint to return it to “pristine” condition.

The Canadian Hall being painted in May 2010. Image: Jim Irvibe/DCT Media

A production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream followed to celebrate the successful project.

But last year, the venue’s 1980s extension began to resemble something from a nightmare – or a Batman origins story.

Rather than the usual culture vultures, hordes of bats instead descended on the lighting and audio control rooms.

Bats ‘trapped in walls’ of Haddo concert hall

The National Trust for Scotland is now taking action to deal with the winged invaders.

And a report submitted to Aberdeenshire Council states: “In spring 2021 it was noted that bats were present in the control room.

“The bats have returned to this roost in 2022, but have now been found inside the control room, many of them becoming trapped within the room and wall linings.

“Their presence also presents a health and safety concern…

“The room is not currently available for use, which impacts greatly on the functions and use of the hall.”

Bats known to emerge to ‘disturb events’ at hall

A bat report penned by specialist Isobel Davidson, of Countrywise, adds more.

She states: “They can be found flying inside building, particularly when the young
are learning to fly and become disorientated.

“The light room is used to control sound, light and electrical infrastructure for the hall.

“There is concern about disturbing the bat roost during evening performances with personnel coming and going while bats are emerging at dusk, or returning to the roost to feed young.”

Isobel Davidson has investigated the bat problem. Image: Ben Hendry/DCT Media

Concert-goers driven batty by flying menaces

The expert, also an Ellon councillor, adds: “This roost renders the lightroom unusable during the summer months because of smell, noise, droppings and bats found in the room.

“Summer 2022 has been particularly hot and bats have moved to a cooler roost behind panelling fitted to hold electrical equipment.

“The bat roost is therefore having an economic impact on the use of the Canadian Hall.

“And there are associated issues of concern and intolerance when bats enter the main hall during events.”

This shows where the bats are entering the building. Image: Countrywise

So what can be done to deal with Haddo bats?

Haddo House bosses are now seeking permission to install a heated bat box close to the spot.

The creatures left in September.

And management believe such an addition “in close proximity to the current roost location” will prevent bats returning to the spot next summer.

If the work is approved, it would be fitted to the lighting room extension.

The box would be 49cm high, 26cm wide and 130cm deep.

Countywise say the animals come from a “maternity roost” of 600-1,000 Soprano pipistrelle bats known to live at Haddo.

NTS conclude: “The presence of the bats in the hall puts the users of the space as well as its core purpose at risk.”

Bats ‘had no impact’ on Haddo events

A spokesman for the body later told the P&J that “best practice” would be followed in “supporting both bat populations and safe human activity”.

He added: “The room below the roost was not a publicly accessed space and any staff members were advised and signage put in place.

“The presence of the bats had no impact on events taking place at Haddo Hall, including the very successful annual Haddo Arts Festival.”

Measures taken to “protect the roost” included “removing bunting and lighting that may have impacted on their flight path” and they left by the end of September.

You can see the plans here.