Adam Smith Theatre: the 1972 refurbishment to celebrate Adam Smith's birthday

The countdown will soon begin to mark the re-opening of the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy after a three-year closure.
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The landmark building remains behind fences as work continues on its major refurbishment, but in just a few months, locals will finally get a glimpse inside as the theatre hosts the tercentenary of its namesake, the world renowned economist and philanthropist.

Smith should be used to the upheaval. His 250th anniversary also co-incided with the last major upgrade of the theatre.

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Back then, the work cost £200,000 - a fraction of the multi-million £ investment currently transforming the historic building into Fife’s premiere creative hub.

Provost Kay with Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, and, right, with John Mason, regional manager of contractor George Wimpey & CoProvost Kay with Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, and, right, with John Mason, regional manager of contractor George Wimpey & Co
Provost Kay with Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, and, right, with John Mason, regional manager of contractor George Wimpey & Co

The makeover announced in January 197 also co-incided with a big year in Smith’s timeline, wit a symposium in his honour also the grand opening event in June 1973.

Not everyone approved of the plans. Kirkcaldy Town Council was criticised for not awarding the project to a local firm, whilst two of the town’s societies claimed the refit could threaten their future existence.

The principal feature of the scheme was to be a theatre and concert hall in the upper part of the building. This also meant the old Adam Smith Halls would lose its balcony, and the main auditorium would see its capacity cut to 450 - less than half of its 1000 seats.

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It was this suggestion which brought a chorus of disapproval from Kirkcaldy Operatic Society and Kirkcaldy Gilbert and Sullivan Society, which said such a cut in capacity was “totally inadequate” for their annual productions.

The 1972 refurbishment of the Adam Smith TheatreThe 1972 refurbishment of the Adam Smith Theatre
The 1972 refurbishment of the Adam Smith Theatre

They proposed seating for around 750-800 patrons, but this was rejected by the Provost’s Committee which agreed that members of the society and other regular users of the hall should be invited to a meeting when the Council’s proposals could be explained in detail.

It was felt that a seating capacity of 450 was more suitable for theatrical productions, and orchestral concerts.

The Fife Free Press also reported that the question of how the ground floor should be used was still under consideration with a proposal to turn it into an indoor bowling facility.

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The council’s plan to approach to George Wimpey & Co Ltd with a view to it being the nominated contractor struck a jarring note with Fife Building Trades Employers’ Association whose secretary, Mr R. Smith Hutchison, said: “It seems decidedly strange that as we look towards the 250th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith. Kirkcaldy’s most famous son, today’s sons of Kirkcaldy are not even given an opportunity.

“Naturally this is disturbing but in the light of information so far available our Association can only hope that consultation may yet take place when the full facts may bring the matter into better perspective.”

Despite the outcry, the renovations by Wimpey’s went ahead – albeit costing £50,000 more than the original estimated – and the new look Adam Smith Theatre was opened on time in June 1973.

Kirkcaldy Provost John Kay said he had difficulty in finding enough superlatives to describe its magnificence - a sentiment OnFife, which now manages the venue, will be hoping to hear when the doors open for the first time this summer.

Smith’s festival, which features broadcaster Robert Peston and author Alexander McCall Smith - with more to be announced - will be the first to take to the stage in the refurbished auditorium.

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