l-r, Janet Archer of Creative Scotland, Michael Downes, Professor Don Paterson, David Ross of Fife Council, Principal Louise Richardson The Byre Theatre officially opened this week (Tuesday 21 October 2014) under the management of the University of St Andrews.
The opening heralds a fresh start for ‘the best small theatre in Scotland’, with the University pledging to protect its long-term future in an innovative deal with Fife Council.
The new operation was made possible after the University, owners Fife Council and Creative Scotland reached agreement on a rescue package for the distinctive arts venue.
In the deal announced in August, the University signed a 25 year lease with the Council to operate the Byre as a theatre, educational resource, general arts venue and music centre.
The package set out to save the theatre, which closed in January 2013, with a sustainable future and at no cost to local council tax payers. Under the University’s stewardship, it is hoped that the theatre’s future as a beacon for the arts in St Andrews remains bright.
Since then its new Artistic Director – Michael Downes – and General Manager – Stephen Sinclair – have been working closely together to lead the development of the Byre in its role as a centre for the arts in Fife.
Michael Downes, who is also the University’s Director of Music, said:
“The reopened Byre has the potential to make a huge contribution to the arts scene both in St Andrews and across Scotland as a whole. We are developing an exciting programme bringing together the best of professional, student and community activity in both drama and many other art-forms, and we hope that audiences will quickly return to support this beautiful theatre.”
Stephen Sinclair, who was brought on board having previously been the Operations Manager of the Byre, added:
“I have been delighted in recent months to see all the local and community organisations around Fife pulling together to put the Byre Theatre back on the map. It is a pleasure to be working with Michael and the very many other colleagues at the University who share a passion for theatre and the arts.”
As part of its commitment, the University will deliver a high-quality programme of performing and visual arts; provide educational activities for schools; promote the use of the space by local community groups and voluntary arts organisations and support the development of a strong local creative sector through student placements, internships and modern apprenticeships.
Councillor David Ross, Leader of Fife Council, said, “This re-opening event marks the start of what I am sure will be an exciting future for the Byre and one which the whole community will welcome.
“It was important to find a funding and operational model for the Byre that is sustainable for the longer term. I believe that the solution we have found that mixes university use with community access and professional theatre will secure the sustainable and positive future that this much loved facility needs going forward.
“I am very pleased that the University, the Council and the Friends of the Byre have worked together so constructively to bring us to this point that launches the Byre on this new chapter in its history.”
Janet Archer, CEO of Creative Scotland, said, “We are delighted that The Byre is re-establishing itself as a key part of the cultural infrastructure with the added benefit of knowledge and expertise, backed by St Andrews University.
“We welcome the balance of the programme which promises to bring high quality work from across the arts to audiences in St Andrews, alongside providing for education and local talent development and wide ranging community engagement. We are looking forward to this next stage of The Byre’s development with great excitement, and congratulate all involved for making it happen.”
Although it is expected to take some time for the Byre to return to full-frequency operation, ticket sales for this year’s Pantomime are already well underway and the Café Bar opened earlier than expected last month.
The Byre was originally founded in a cowshed in the 1930s by local playwright and St Andrews honorary graduate A. B Paterson. The current iconic building situated on Abbey Street, was opened in 2001 by Sir Sean Connery.
Notes to Editors
Images from the opening are available from the Press Office – contacts below.
Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office.
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