Adam Smith Theatre: a sense of pride as wraps come off new look Kirkcaldy venue
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Much of the work was done in-house by Fife Council’s property services with a hefty chunk of suppliers coming from Fife.
The phrase ‘placemaking’ is often used in the corridors of power. The refurbishment of the Adam Smith Theatre is the biggest example yet of what it means - creating vibrant places where people come for a wide variety of reasons; a place they love and want to be part of.
Raymond Johnston, service manager, property services, said: “We want to make our buildings central to the communities they serve. People walking around will look at the money spent and asking where it has gone - put it in perspective on what we had and what we have now got. This is a very good investment. It has given the town back a real building that was close to the end of its lifespan.”
The refurbishment uncovered a host of challenges as the 124-year old building was stripped back to basics.
“It was very challenging - we really didn’t know what we’d find until we got in,” said Raymond. “You can do all the prep in the world, but only once you start to break up walls and look above ceilings do you start to uncover things..”Last refurbished 50 years ago, the limitations of that £200,000, 1972 job became all too evident as work began transforming the civic theatre into a creative hub with a remit that stretches far beyond the wings of the stage. Phase one focussed on the auditorium where new seating was installed along with state of the art lighting and sound systems. Behind the scenes, dressing-rooms were all upgraded.
Gavin Turner, lead designer, pointed to the new speakers hanging from the roof - the venue now has sound and lighting for theatre rather than cinema, and that will make a huge difference to live shows.
“From November 2020 to August 2021 we had the opportunity to refurbish the auditorium,” said Raymond. “We were due to be back in February 2022 working through to June 2023, and the panto’s cancellation gave us a chance to get back into the building. That was a godsend. We were able to start the strip out and came across a whole series of issues that we wouldn’t have otherwise have discovered until the following February.”Lockdown also threw up other real challenges including limits on numbers who could be in the building at any one time, sharply escalating costs.
“Normally we are all over a site to get to fully understand it,” said Gavin. “Because of Covid we couldn’t do that. Workers also had to take breaks at different times and we had to juggle absence as guys went off with ovid.”
Phase two saw complete new looks for the Beveridge Suite and lower function hall - sound proofing and the installation of the latest technology will open them up to greater use than ever before – and former offices and unused spaces transformed into multi-purpose areas for community and commercial use, while the gents toilets in the foyer became a stunning design suite. In the foyer the box office was brought forward to become the centrepiece, and the bar turned round.
The attention to detail is perhaps best illustrated in the Beveridge Suite where one of three roses in the ceiling had to be recreated. “I guarantee you won’t know which one is new,” said Raymond.
“The commitment of the guys working on the building was incredible. There is a huge sense of pride in a fantastic job. It will be great to drive past the building and see it open again.”