The history behind Kirkcaldy’s landmark Adam Smith Theatre

For over 100 years the Adam Smith Theatre has stood as one of Kirkcaldy’s most popular and instantly recognisable landmarks.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 4:45 pm
The Adam Smith Theatre, shortly after it opened in 1899.
The Adam Smith Theatre, shortly after it opened in 1899.

It had seen thousands of famous names take to the stage, from Bob Monkhouse to David Bowie, whilst hosting plays, musicals, operas, films and gigs – not to mention the annual panto – whilst also serving as a thriving community hub.

But its creation did not prove to be the easiest of births.

On June 10, 1889, a proposal was put forward by Provost Beveridge at a meeting of the Town Council that a memorial should be erected to one of the town’s most famous sons, economist Adam Smith.

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After the 1973 refurbishment.

It was suggested that it should take the form of a public hall with smaller connecting halls, one of which would be a free library.

The Council agreed and after much deliberation, a 1.75 acre site at the corner of St Brycedale Avenue and Bennochy Road was secured from local florist, Mr W. Sang, at a cost of £1000 per acre.

Unfortunately, Provost Beveridge died before the project came to fruition but he left a generous £50,000 bequest to the Town Council to carry forward the plan.

Having agreed on the name and location of the hall, the Town Council then advertised for designs to be submitted for the new building and, from 29 entries, the winner was announced as Messrs Dunn and Findlay of Edinburgh.

The theatre as it looks today.

Work began on the site in 1895 but was delayed by a host of problems, most notably a scarcity of specified grange stone.

As the project progressed, other difficulties surfaced including increased wage demands from contractors and differing opinions over details such as types of seating and staging.

Despite these extensive behind-the-scenes complications, the problems were eventually overcome and, after four years, the building was finally ready to open its doors to the public.

The opening ceremony, on October 11, 1899 carried out by entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie, was suitably grand, with the exterior of the hall lavishly decorated with flags and bunting.

Inside, along with smaller halls, the new venue boasted a huge Victorian concert hall with horseshoe gallery which could seat 1660 people.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth, the theatre celebrated yet another opening night on September 15, 1973, following a major 12-month reconstruction project.

Without altering the exterior of the listed building, the revamp created the auditorium that we know today, seating more than 400.

The Beveridge Suite became a drama studio and a function suite, effectively splitting the old hall into two.

In 1999, 100 years to the day of its opening, a three-day 100th Birthday Gala Show began, featuring amateur groups and pupils from Dunnikier Primary School staging a faithful reenactment of the opening ceremony.

And with a new, multi-million pound facelift in the pipeline, the old theatre is guaranteed to stand firm for many years to come.