Fife youth theatre group closes after almost 50 years after series of setbacks
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Burntisland Youth Theatre has been putting productions on in the town for the last 49 years, but dwindling numbers and costs relating to a recent safety check meant that its closure was announced earlier this week.
Karen Spiers, director of the theatre group, said: “Unfortunately we've come to a point where we can no longer carry on and there’s a few things that are a part of that. Covid absolutely knocked us. We work on a rotation that kids join us when they are 11 and they grow up with us. To start with they’re in the chorus and then the principals, so it's a never ending cycle. Covid stopped that completely.”
Karen said it was “like starting over” when the company returned following the pandemic.
She explained: “We had to start with a very young cast because the older ones are now at university and working so that was really tough.”
The youth theatre has repeatedly attempted to bring back shows over the last three years but has been stymied. However, it suffered a further blow when a Fife Council fire safety inspection found issues with lighting rigs. Repairs were estimated to cost £40,000.
Karen said: “ We don’t have £40,000 in our back pocket. We asked for help from Fife Council but it wasn’t able to support us either.”
Karen and her team sought out alternatives, but were once again faced with low numbers which led to the decision to shut up shop.
She said “We made the horrible decision that actually, how many times can we try to keep coming back and keep coming back? It's not fair on my adult team. We all work full time, we all do this voluntarily. There's no money involved – there's nothing involved other than the love and the passion for helping develop kids.”
The youth theatre had been awarded Co-op Community funding which Karen said will now be returned as the projects it was intended for will no longer be undertaken.
She said: “I think that it should go back into the community because that's what the community funders for.”
Karen said the decision was “like a bereavement” and praised her “amazing” adult team.
She added that the theatre’s adult volunteers still had the passion to continue making their productions an important part of the Christmas schedule for those in Burntisland and beyond. She was also keen to thank those who had supported the theatre over the years.
She said: “We want to thank the community for their support. They’ve supported me for 49 years. They’ve supported the youth theatre for 49 years.
“I want to thank them for coming along to every show in the miserable weather and the uncomfortable chairs and all of the stuff that goes along with a community hall, but never stopped supporting us all the way through it.”