Alhambra - no closure & in talks for Council funding

The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922
The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922

Fears that Fife’s biggest theatre, the Alhambra, could close have been quashed. The trust behind the Dunfermline venue says it is business as usual.

Speculation was rife it faced a bleak 2016 after the front doors were boarded up - the trust says this was to prevent vandalism while the building began its standard closure period at the start of the year.

The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922

The canopy at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline has been restored to how it would have been in 1922

But the debate over how it is funded IS on-going with the theatre pushing for more financial support from Fife Council.

Proposals from the Alhambra Trust form part of a detailed paper which will be discussed by councillors at the executive committee meeting next Tuesday.

These include the Alhambra and Carnegie Hall working together - and even transferring management of the smaller Carnegie venue from Fife Cultural Trust to the Alhambra Theatre Trust (ATT).

The Council has already sunk £150,000 into the Alhambra to sustain a number of jobs, but the theatre has argued strongly it is the only one in Fife to get no subsidy - and only one of two independently run venues in Scotland that gets no financial backing.

And it warns that “the current business model may not be sustainable in the long term.’’

In a statement refuting the closure rumours, the Trust said: ‘‘We have come this far due to the hard work of a very small band of employees and our ever loyal volunteers. The Alhambra Theatre Trust is a registered charity with all proceeds going back into the continuing refurbishment and operation of the venue.

“In that time (eight years), our main theatre competitors in Edinburgh and Perth will have received well over £5m each in subsidies from their local authorities, in recognition of the considerable economic impact that theatres have in their local communities.’’

The Alhambra trust also points to the £3m funding of the nearby Carnegie Hall over the past eight years- one of the venues managed by Fife Cultural Trust - and one plan it put forward is for the venues to work together.

That could see the much smaller Carnegie Theatre transferred to the Alhambra Trust - the funding for Carnegie also transferring and effectively or under-pinning, two venues rather than one.

The Trust argues the Council’s spend would remain largely the same, but added it would ‘‘safeguard the Alhambra Theatre for future generations and finally allowing an opportunity for further discussion to develop an exciting cultural identity for Dunfermline that is forward thinking, rather than mired in unnecessarily damaging competition and duplication of programming.’’

The Trust’s statement added: ‘‘Where other cities have two theatres - for ex maple, Edinburgh, Perth and Aberdeen, it is crucial that a conjoined approach to programming is followed.

‘‘It’s important to understand that without some level of the kind of support that our competitors receive from their local authorities, the current business model may not be sustainable in the long term.’’

The Trust said the Carnegie proposal was ’’just one of many’’ but it is clearly looking for a decision - or an indication from councillors - at next week’s meeting.

It said talks with the Council, had bene on going since 2008 but had ‘‘been particularly intensive over the past 12 months’’ adding ‘‘where many options regarding Fife’s cultural identity and closer working between the various bodies were proposed.’’

It added: “It is important to clarify that this current offer, one of many on the table, represents considerable savings for Fife Council in the long term. We hope that our proposal is given the serious consideration it deserves by the Executive Committee on January 12.”

Fife Cultural Trust, which has been pushed to deliver savings of £800,000 resulting in plans to cull 16 libraries across Fife, has put a significant a mount of work into Carnegie Halls - one of the most established theatres in Fife.

It is one of four theatres which come under its remit along with the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy, Rothes Halls in Glenrothes, and the refurbished Lochgelly Centre.

Heather Stuart, chief executive of the trust, said the organisation was open to joint working.

She said: ‘‘We welcome the conversation around theatre provision in Dunfermline, and the opportunity to continue improving partnerships with other cultural providers in the town.

‘‘Such efforts can only increase the variety and choice for local residents, something which would complement the high standard of cultural offering we are already providing in Dunfermline and throughout Fife.

‘‘As Fife’s main cultural provider, we obviously take close interest in constantly increasing and improving the cultural offering in Dunfermline, as seen not only in Carnegie Hall, but in ventures such as the development of Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries.

‘‘We are focused on enriching lives in local communities throughout the whole of Fife, not only through our programmes of theatre, music and visual art, but also through our offering of volunteering opportunities and spaces for classes, workshops and societies, and, as such, we are happy to take part in any measure which strengthens the cultural and community fabric of Dunfermline.”