Byre raises curtain on brighter future . .

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

AFTER a year of turmoil, the future is looking brighter for the Byre Theatre — but officials admit difficult times may still lie ahead.

The Byre suffered a blow last June when arts body Creative Scotland announced it was pulling the plug on the St Andrews theatre’s flexible funding, worth £160,000 a year.

The controversial decision led to job losses at the five-star venue and prompted fears of severe programme cuts.

But this week Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop insisted a “good news story” had developed following the initial disappointment of the funding loss.

Speaking during a visit to Cupar, Ms Hyslop told the Citizen: “Creative Scotland has been talking with the Byre Theatre and Fife Council as part of its partnership working to make sure funding is secured for the Byre going forward.

“Things change and have to develop, but this new relationship will be helpful.”

In July, the Byre received a £50,000 ‘transition’ grant from Creative Scotland and the same amount from Fife Council.

Jacqueline McKay, chief executive of the Byre, said the cash would help the theatre weather the loss of its flexible funding — plus a further £20,000 reduction in council grants.

Ms McKay told the Citizen: “When you lose £180,000 without a great deal of time to adjust, you are very quickly put into what we’re calling a transition period.

“The £100,000 will allow us to continue through this financial year and plan for next April.

“We’re currently looking at different business models and ways to gain income.”

Redundancies — described by Ms McKay as “unfortunately inevitable” — saw three full time staff lose their jobs, while front of house duties were turned over to volunteers, resulting in the loss of 20 part time salaries.

Ms McKay added: “Like all arts organisations and charities, we’re in difficult times.

“The Byre is having to adapt to reduced funding and ongoing support will be needed.

“We have to be cautious and hope our funders continue to appreciate the value of the Byre.

“But our default position is one of optimism and we’re delighted with the support we’ve received so far.”