BREAKING NEWS: Fears for future of Byre Theatre in St Andrews

Byre Theatre, St Andrews.
Byre Theatre, St Andrews.

FEARS are growing for the future of the Byre Theatre after shock news emerged on Friday that it had closed its doors.

Late on Friday shock news emerged that it had closed its doors.

St Andrews’ long-established and highly regarded theatre arts venue is reported to be facing liquidation.

That, according to a statement attributed to Fife Council, ‘‘is very likely’’ to happen next week.

No statement has yet been posted on the theatre’s website, Facebook or Twitter accounts, but already some shows have been moved.

The Byre was due to host a string of concerts as part of Fife Jazz Festival which starts on February 1.

Organisers have moved swiftly to secure new venues in the town to ensure the big names flying into Scotland are able to perform as scheduled.

Festival director Roger Spence said: ‘‘What a shock! What a sad day for a great institution.’’

In a statement, festival organisers, Jazz Scotland and On At Fife, confirmed its five shows planned for the Byre would now go ahead in St Andrews Town Hall.

These include exclusive performances by American singers Carla Cook and Champian Fulton; the world renowned Norrbotten Big Band from Sweden; and a major youth jazz orchestra meeting featuring over 40 young musicians from Scotland and Sweden.

All of these musicians – and many more – are flying into Scotland especially for the festival.

The statement said: ‘‘After the shock news that the Byre Theatre has gone into liquidation, Fife Jazz Festival organisers, Jazz Scotland and ON At Fife, have moved swiftly to relocate their five St Andrews concerts to the Town Hall.

‘‘Jazz Scotland heard the news at 2.00 p.m. today (Friday) and by 3.00 p.m. were in detailed discussions with the Town Hall about the logistics of transferring the concerts, power, PA systems, lighting, pianos, seating, and backline. ON At Fife has offered unlimited resources to help the festival move the concerts to the Town Hall.’’

Added Mr Spence: ‘‘This is the most important and exciting jazz and blues programme we’ve ever put together in St Andrews, and now our main partner in the town cannot host us. Thankfully the Town Hall has agreed to a last minute booking and made all the arrangements to make the venue available to us.

‘‘Thanks to them, and we hope that out of adversity we can create a great new venue for the festival.”

Ticket holders will be contacted early next week to re-assure them they will get to see the shows they booked for - and tickets for the affected shows will be on sale from all On At Fife venues (Rothes Halls, Lochgelly Theatre, Adam Smith Theatre and Carnegie Hall) ‘‘as soon as possible’’ - and definitely by Monday.

The future for the Byre remains unclear.

On April 1 it was due to come under the wing of the new Fife Cultural Trust - the organisation set up in October 2012.

Pauline McLean, BBCScotland’s arts correspondent, tweeted that the theatre’s doors were closed but a charity gig planned for nxt week would go ahead.

That show is Mind, Body & Soul on January 30 - an evening od drama and dance to raise awareness of cold tap therapy for chemotherapy patients, and to help raise £10,000 for a new cold tap unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

On Twitter, it was revealed theatre staff were working for free to ensure it went ahead as planned.

@SportiveStAs tweeted: ‘‘Staff laid off today yet they are all doing charity show for free next week. Amazing generosity to do that.’’

>> The Byre Theatre was opened by 1933 thanks largely to journalist and playwright A.B. Paterson.

It was first based in a disused cow shed with audiences seated in cushions on the floor.

In 1969 the building was demolished to make way for housing, and in 1970 a new theatre was opened at a cost of £40,000.

The current Byre was opened by Sir Sean Connery in 2001.

Henry McLeish, former First Minister, hailed it as ‘‘a wonderful facility not only for St Andrews and Fife but for Scotland.’’