Rumours abound of the potential return of the Byre Theatre to St Andrews. One-off events such as the sold-out Fife Jazz Festival last week have shown a promising start to efforts towards a full reopening of the Byre in the near future. Several major events are planned over the next few months, with the theatre temporarily re-opening for the Fife Jazz Festival, StAnza and a performance by the Guizards, but doubts remain about the feasibility of the theatre in the long-term. In the meantime similar one-off arrangements may also be offered for local theatre groups including student productions.
Fife Council is working together with Creative Scotland to secure a future for the theatre, with the University of St Andrews, Fife Cultural Trust and Friends of the Byre group also involved in discussions. A sustainable and financially viable future is considered essential to prevent the theatre from being forced to close again.
Speaking to The Citizen, Grant Ward, head of leisure and cultural services at Fife Council, said: “The aim is to get the Byre re-opened as soon as practicable and all those involved are doing their utmost to ensure that this is sooner rather than later.”
Having hosted concerts and theatre productions since the 1930s, the Byre had been struggling to cover the costs of its new £5.5 million building, which opened in 2001, when the annual grant it was receiving from the former Scottish Arts Council ended in 2011, exacerbating its financial troubles.
After the Byre finally closed a year ago, a widely-publicised campaign to re-open it prompted responses from high-profile figures such as Sir Sean Connery and even the Scottish parliament at Holyrood.
The Save the Byre campaign currently stands at over 5,700 likes on Facebook and a petition reached 7,300 signatures. Claudia Daventry, the organiser of the Save the Byre petition on Change.org, summarised why the campaign to re-open the theatre is so important to so many:
“The Byre’s about more than fixtures and a building. It’s the people, the creativity, the spirit which has made it great. You can’t put that out of business – or buy it back.”