Nostalgia: Row over Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre plan

The Adam Smith Theatre after its major refit in June 1973
The Adam Smith Theatre after its major refit in June 1973

Plans were announced to redevelop Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre in January 1972 – and immediately a row erupted.

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 downstairs suite in the theatre after the refit

The downstairs suite in the theatre after the refit

The £200,000 plan was intended to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the town’s most famous son, Adam Smith, author of ‘The Wealth of Nations’ the following year and was to finish by June 1973 in time for a symposium which would celebrate the anniversary. The principal feature of the scheme was to be a theatre and concert hall in the upper part of the building.

Crucially, this would mean the main auditorium, which was to lose its balcony, would provide seating for 450 people, less than half of the then capacity of just under 1000.

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

They proposed a cut to around 750-800 patrons, but this was rejected by the Provost’s Committee who 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, orchestral concerts and so on.

Treasurer Rankin G. Grimshaw of the Ratepayers Association, added that while he sympathised with the viewpoint of the Societies on this matter, he did not think it was realistic to make special provision for organisations which made use of the hall for only one week in the year.

The Fife Free Press also reported that “the question of how the men as to how the ground floor should be used is still under consideration and a proposal that indoor bowling facilities should be provided is to be investigated” and the Burgh Architect, Mr D R MacGregor, was to make an informal approach to George Wimpey & Co Ltd with a view to their being the nominated contractors. This proposal was slammed by the Fife Building Trades Employers’ Association whose secretary, Mr R. Smith Hutchison, said he was “perturbed” that the Council had failed to “give local firms the opportunity either to discuss the matter with them or to enter into open competition for the Contract”.

He added: “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.”

But Mr Hutchison’s hopes were in vein and 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.

He said: “The halls will be constantly in use providing for a variety of needs of a cultural fashion.”

The Provost paid tribute to all those involved in the project and thanked the contractors for the work they had done, giving Kirkcaldy a centre it had a right to be proud of.