Byre Theatre to remain closed until 2014

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The Byre Theatre is likely to remain closed until the end of the year as it continues to struggle to find sufficient funding to re-open.

In January, there were hopes that the theatre would open at the end of the summer, but it will now be closed until at least 2014.

The theatre was said to be in talks with Fife Cultural Trust to allow it to reopen in September, but the ongoing liquidation has made this difficult.

The crux of the Byre’s financial problems lay in the fact that the theatre could only seat 220 people, so ticket sales were not “sufficient to cover all the overheads and staff costs.”

Outside funding was provided by the Arts Council (now Creative Scotland) – a total of £435,970 since 2010 – but financial cutbacks meant Creative Scotland had to remove its £160,000 per year grant, leaving theByre struggling.

At the time of its closure the theatre faced debts of close to half a million pounds. The Byre, situated on Abbey Walk, was a much loved part of the community owing to the bar, restaurant and two auditoriums that made up the building.

There were many protests when its closure was announced, from both the town and gown communities. The Save the Byre campaign was launched across social media sites and gained support from many locals residents.

Fife Council’s head of leisure and cultural services, Grant Ward, said: “Detailed discussions are continuing between Fife Council, Creative Scotland and Fife Cultural Trust with a view to securing a viable, long-term funding package that would allow the Byre Theatre to reopen and, more importantly, stay open.

“We said from the outset that this wouldn’t be easy in the current financial climate and so it has proven. It’s therefore very difficult to be clear about timelines, although, realistically, it’s unlikely the building will now reopen until 2014.

“All parties are working hard to find a sustainable solution and remain optimistic that this can be achieved.”

A Creative Scotland spokesman commented: “Creative Scotland is actively working with other funding partners to facilitate the reopening of the Byre as soon as is feasible.”

St Andrews councillor Brian Thomson said: “It’s disappointing that there is still no timeline for reopening the Byre. However, it’s not surprising given the constraints on public expenditure at the present time.”

His concern was safeguarding long term investment, without which reopening the Byre is not viable. While the focus is very much on opening the theatre sooner rather than later, a “robust business plan” is needed.

Dorothea Morrison, also a St Andrews councillor, said: “The Byre Theatre has given so much pleasure to generations of local people. I hope it can reopen in some form and continue to entertain us for many years to come.”

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