The Adam Smith Theatre celebrates its 120th birthday on Friday.
Kirkcaldy’s famous venue has played host to many star names over the decades, and continues to be the town’s focal point for live entertainment.
The landmark anniversary comes just one week after the Fife Free Press revealed plans for a major £3m transformation which will turn the building into a vibrant creative hub.
The vision will create a whole new era for the historic venue which opened in 1899 under the name of Adam Smith Halls.
Built as a memorial to Kirkcaldy’s famous son, it was opened by another prominent Fifer, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who hailed it as “a hall with a fine organ and stage suitable for concerts, charades, private theatricals, meetings of philanthropic committees, lectures upon interesting and instructive topics and entertainments of all kinds.”
The halls came about thanks to the generosity of Michael Beveridge, former Kirkcaldy provost, who left a bequest of £50,000 – equivalent to more than £6 million today – in his will for the building of a public hall, park and library.
In its early years, it became a popular venue for opera and orchestral concerts, dances and even boxing tournaments. In 1913, the silent movie From the Manger to the Cross was the first film to be shown in the building.
It saw active service during both world wars – 300 members of the Highland Cyclist Battalion were billeted there in World War One – and when peace returned, Perth Theatre began to produce regular plays in the venue.
In 1973, the halls became the Adam Smith Centre after a £200,000 make-over which saw the 1000-seat venue re-designed to create the structure that exists today.
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The 1970s and 1980s saw week-long touring shows come to town featuring all the big names from variety and light entertainment – they were all famously captured by Nigel Hart Studios for a series of soft-focus portraits which once lined the corridors leading to the main auditorium. They included all the famous comedians of the day from Jimmy Tarbuck to Jimmy Cricket, The Nolans, Mike and Bernie Winters, Scottish greats such as Moira Anderson and Peter Morrison, and crooner Matt Monro.
They have long since gone – a move which caused some upset among some long-standing patrons – along with the Rolf Harris charicature drawn on the staircase backstage by the now disgraced TV performer.
That was also the era of the Friends of the Adam Smith, set up to support the theatre, and host regular functions with the stars coming to town to perform for a week at a time.
It has also hosted many who have gone on to great acclaim – X-Men star James McAvoy appeared in panto as Bobby Buckfast, while a young Eddie Izzard was part of a comedy team which rolled into town and played to a small audience.
He wasn’t alone in not selling out the theatre. David Bowie famously played to a handful of fans on his first solo tour in 1969 just after Space Oddity hit the top ten.
The ‘house full’ signs have, of course, been used many times over across the years with big crowds flocking to see stars such as Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Frankie Boyle, and Tommy Cooper.
There have been many outstanding nights of theatre featuring a host of great actors, and, more recently, the NTLive screenings of some of the biggest stars performing in the West End have created a growing audience.
Our own Raith Rovers’ Hall of Fame show became the fastest selling show since the Big Yin performed there – and one of the few to spark long queues outside the building.
Two years ago, David Tennant’s visit saw him mobbed by hundreds of fans before he could take to the stage for a night of conversation and an exclusive screening of his film What We Did On Our Holiday.
The theatre remains home to local groups such as KADS, KAOS and Kirkcaldy Gilbert & Sullivan, and, of course, it is still renowned for its annual pantos, many of them featuring legendary dame, Billy Mack.
The theatre has also been well served by several long-serving staff, including Alyson Hynd (38 years), Moira Salmond (35 years), Irene Smith (28 years) and Andy Hotchkiss (26 years), and many will recall the leadership of previous long-serving managers Chris Potter and Sheila Thomson, and the great publicity work done for many years by Bert Ross.
Heather Stuart, chief executive of Fife Cultural Trust, said: “Michael Beveridge’s original vision was to create a place that was of cultural and social value to the people of Kirkcaldy. The Adam Smith Theatre has not only fulfilled that intention, it has grown to have cultural significance to the whole of Fife.
“It is fitting that in this 120th anniversary year we are now looking to develop the theatre again so it continues to not only meet the needs of its community but can inspire creativity and new enterprises in the 21st century.”