St Andrews operating theatre – Byre brought back to life

Tuesday 19 August 2014

The Byre Theatre in St Andrews is to re-open under the management of the University of St Andrews after the University, owners Fife Council and Creative Scotland reached agreement on a rescue package for the distinctive arts venue.

Scotland’s oldest university will operate the Byre as a theatre, educational resource, general arts venue and music centre and has signed a 25-year lease with the building owners, Fife Council.

The “best small theatre in Scotland” closed in January 2013 with the loss of several jobs and since then Fife Council has explored a range of options to secure a sustainable future for the Byre, founded in a cowshed in the 1930s by local playwright and St Andrews honorary graduate A. B Paterson.  The University rescue package will be delivered at no cost to council tax payers in Fife who hitherto had subsidised the ailing theatre.

St Andrews has set out its aims, commitment to and vision for the Byre in a full schedule to the lease.

To achieve these aims, the University will:

  • Provide a year-round programme of work to increase participation and attendances in drama, music, opera, film and the visual arts, including in-house productions, touring productions and hires to local community groups.
  • Make effective and imaginative use of the theatre and its facilities as a teaching space for English, Film Studies, Social Anthropology and Music, among other degree subjects.
  • Deliver high-quality autumn, spring and summer seasons using available touring product which offer a wide range of experiences and art forms.
  • Relocate its highly regarded Music Centre and dedicated staff from the Younger Hall to the Byre.
  • Explore the development of producing links with professional arts organisations, particularly smaller theatre companies looking for venues in which to perform their shows before taking them on tour.
  • Provide educational activities related to key main house productions, including matinees, talks, teachers’ packs, workshops and visits to and from schools.
  • Provide a range of activities to encourage older people to make use of the theatre, including support for existing local groups.
  • Develop a studio programme promoting new and culturally-diverse work and promote the use of the space by local community groups and voluntary arts organisations.
  • Explore opportunities for student placements, internships and modern apprenticeships to help young people into work in the creative industries and support the development of a strong local creative sector.

The University, Fife Council and Creative Scotland have cautioned that it will take some time for the Byre to return to full-frequency operation, given the lead times and planning required for many of the productions it hopes to stage.

A formal opening is however planned for late Autumn and the University has just contracted Bard of the Botanics and director Gordon Barr to produce Jack and the Beanstalk this Christmas. The production will run for over 50 performances between late November and New Year, and its cast will include many local schoolchildren.

St Andrews Principal, Professor Louise Richardson said:

“We are absolutely delighted that Fife Council, Creative Scotland, the community and the University have come together to ensure a bright future for the Byre. We look forward to working together in innovative and creative ways to forge a fabulous centre for the arts right here in St Andrews whose impact will be felt all over Scotland.”

Councillor David Ross, Leader of Fife Council said:

“The Byre Theatre is an important cultural asset for both St Andrews and Fife and I’m pleased that its long-term future has now been secured.  It’s not been the easiest of journeys and I would like to thank the local community in particular for their patience and understanding over the last eighteen months.  However, we can now look forward to this iconic building opening its doors on a full-time basis once again. I have every confidence that under the University’s stewardship, The Byre will go from strength-to-strength and will very soon be delivering a high-quality programme of community and professional dance, music, film and theatre.”

Janet Archer, CEO, Creative Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that The Byre is soon to re-open.  The agreement ensures that The Byre will return as an arts venue for professional and community use as well as becoming a connected part of St Andrews University. We welcome the University’s long term commitment to The Byre – home to many significant local festivals and a valued venue within the professional touring network –  and the stability which this will provide over the coming years.”

Alan Tricker, Secretary of the Friends of the Byre which has long campaigned for the theatre’s re-opening, said:

“The Byre Theatre was built and run by local theatre enthusiasts and in its various incarnations has been a hub for professional, community and university theatre activities for over 80 years.  The Friends of the Byre are delighted that after 18 months of closure, the Byre is going to re-open.  The plans outlined by the University of St Andrews show their commitment to revitalise what is the best small theatre in Scotland, and turn it into a beacon for the arts in St Andrews.”

St Andrews will make a further announcement next week on the appointment of an artistic director and a technical manager.



Notes to Editors

Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office.

Further information:

University of St Andrews: [email protected], tel: 01334 462530.

Friends of the Byre : [email protected]

Fife Council : [email protected]

Creative Scotland : [email protected]

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