University proposes teaching and theatre alliance with the Byre Theatre

Thursday 10 April 2014

In a formal proposal to Fife Council, the University has outlined a sustainable future for the Byre designed to benefit students, staff, local amateur dramatic groups, and the wider population of St Andrews and Fife; in line with founder Alexander Paterson’s vision for a modern theatre addressing the needs of the entire community.

Key elements of the University bid to run the Byre on a 25-year-lease include:

  • Extensive opportunities for student and community engagement.
  • Prudent use of the theatre during the day for lectures, teaching and music rehearsal.
  • An enhanced range of public performances.
  • A focus for the University’s music and drama outreach activities.
  • Significant University expenditure on the acoustic upgrading of the main auditorium.
  • A sustainable management structure.
  • A boost to Fife visitor numbers.
  • The Byre café and Box Office reopened to the public.
  • No cost to council tax payers. The University would not seek a subsidy from Fife Council.

Under the proposed arrangement, during the working day the main auditorium would be used as a University teaching space for lectures in English, Social Anthropology, Film Studies and Music, while the studio theatre would be used for the teaching of drama and script-writing as well as for orchestra rehearsals and informal performances.

During evenings and weekends, however, the main auditorium would become an arts centre providing a focus for student and community-led music and drama. The venue would also continue to support and facilitate major festivals such as StAnza, St Andrews Voices, the Fife Jazz Festival and On the Rocks.

Professional touring companies would be encouraged to visit the Byre, and the University would use its strategic partnerships with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Scottish Opera to provide exciting opportunities for the wider community. It’s also proposed that the Byre would again host Christmas pantos, and would offer an exciting new summer season offering a diverse range of theatre to audiences in the town.

Art films, mini film festivals, and live broadcasts from the likes of the National Theatre, Royal Opera and Metropolitan Opera would also form part of the Byre’s public programme.

At the same time the Byre would become the administrative base of the University’s Music Centre, currently located in the Younger Hall, providing a more appropriate base for the lunchtime and evening chamber concerts that the University organises. These concerts include regular performances by soloists from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the University’s Orchestra in Residence, and in the last year they have also included a major new series of Thursday evening chamber concerts. This venture, a partnership between the University and the town-based St Andrews Music Club, has brought internationally renowned performers to St Andrews, and some of the concerts have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The Byre will also become the permanent base for St Andrews Opera, whose annual productions have become a significant part of the town’s cultural life since its formation by the Music Centre in 2008. The company’s new production of Britten’s comedy, Albert Herring, will open at the Byre in June (thanks to the kind co-operation of Fife Council) before touring to Perth Concert Hall and the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock.

St Andrews Vice-Principal for Enterprise and Engagement, Professor Malcolm MacLeod, said:

“As one of the world’s top 50 Arts and Humanities Universities, we have a vested interest in how the Arts are valued in Scotland. It is part of our core mission to nurture and promote a wider appreciation and understanding of the Arts. That is why we want to ensure the future of the Byre Theatre, and to re-open it up for educational and creative use.

“The Byre’s demise and subsequent long-term closure have been sorely felt in St Andrews and further afield, not just because the town lost a very important and much loved theatre, but because people lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

“With the support of Fife Council officials, we have given this proposal considerable thought and believe that our plans offer the Byre a fresh start, new life and a sustainable future founded on mixed use, at no cost to the local authority in Fife.”

In order to ensure the correct balance between University and community usage, the University would establish a Byre Advisory Board comprising representatives of all main user groups, plus representatives from Fife Council, Creative Scotland, Fife Cultural Trust and the Friends of the Byre.

The full bid will be published on Fife Direct and is expected to be considered by Fife Councillors on April 15th, alongside other bids to run the theatre.


Issued by the University of St Andrews Press Office

Contact: Emma Shea, Senior Communications Manager, telephone: 01334 462 167, mobile: 07850 900 352, or email: [email protected]

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