Alhambra rejects Fife Council £150,000 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

The Alhambra Theatre has knocked back an injection of £150,000 from Fife Council.

The one-off funding for the Dunfermline venue - the biggest theatre in the Kingdom - was agreed by the local authority’s executive committee last week after discussing a number of options.

But the theatre’s trust has now said it ‘‘never asked for’’ and ‘‘does not intend’’ to take the money earmarked to helped its operating costs.

Instead it has criticised the council for the ‘‘skewed’’ wording in its report to councillors.

At the heart of a much wider picture is the Alhambra’s complaint that it receives no public funding, while the smaller nearby Carnegie Hall - which it wants to take over and run both theatres under one operator - does as it is managed by Fife Cultural Trust (FCT).

The paper tabled by Keith Winter, executive director for enterprise and development, made a number of recommendations to councillors including ATT’s pitch to manage the Carnegie.

It also recommended financial support of £150,000 per annum for three years plus £50,000 to offset losses incurred bringing more west end his shows to the Kingdom.

On the proposal to hand over the Carnegie Hall it suggested six months of negotiation between ATT, the council and FCT to determine what is the best option. That would include studying the Trust’s own business plan for the long-establishing theatre as well as ATT’s proposals for how it would run it on a proposed 25-year lease.

Councillors opted for a £150,000 injection for one year split into three tranches of £50,000.

But now that has been rejected by ATT.

In a statement it said it only allowed the proposal for £150,000 for three years to go forward only on the basis that it would be allocated to its pitch to merge the theatres under one operator.

‘‘The continued prospect of the Alhambra being awarded a standstill figure of £150k per annum whilst the Fife Cultural Trust receive £350k+ per annum to operate the Carnegie Hall, in competition with private charitable enterprise, is of no interest to us as it does not address the issues which have become obvious to us all over the last eight years,’’ the statement added.

It also claimed the three-year funding package was downscaled by Labour councillors the night before the executive committee meeting last Tuesday .

ATT said it was invited by Fife Council to put together a proposal in 2015 aimed at bringing the two theatres together - ‘‘not only to achieve a cohesive cultural identity allowing the two theatres to exist side by side free of damaging competition, but also to examine ways of creating savings for Fife Council.’’

It says the proposal ‘‘ was met favourably by both Fife Council and Fife Cultural Trust’’ and all parties started working towards making it a reality. The options put on the table also included an offer to FCT to take over the running of the Alhambra.

The statement continued: ‘‘Our proposal was to run both theatres for £350,000.00 in the first year, decreasing annually to £215,000.00 in the fifth year. The reduction in funding a result of increased income and efficiencies across both venues. A new organisation known as Dunfermline Performing Arts, with full Fife Council participation was to be formed, though it is important to point out that both venues would continue to be accountable separately.

‘‘At the 11th hour, and after six months of discussions, we were disappointed to learn Fife Cultural Trust had changed direction and would no longer support an amalgamation. It was only then that an alternative figure of £150,000.00 funding for the Alhambra Theatre began to be discussed for the first time. We have made it clear in our meetings with Fife Council from the outset that this is not the outcome that we seek.

‘‘The wording of the report to the executive committee on options for the potential merger or funding for the Alhambra Theatre was entirely Fife Council’s and in our opinion was skewed and short of accurate comparative detail.