It’s been a shutdown with a silver lining.
After 18 months of the doors being closed by Covid, Brechin City Hall is back up and running.
And the volunteer team behind the community-run 138-year-old facility is excited at the prospect of showing off what’s been done to the grand old building during the pandemic.
Tea dancing has already returned and amateur thespians are in rehearsals for their upcoming productions.
But the Brechin City Hall Users Group – known locally as BCHug – have an open day planned for later this month which they hope will bring an even bigger audience through the doors.
Built on site of old town pub
The City Hall was built on the site of the burgh’s one-time Swan Inn and opened in 1883.
It served the generations until being replaced by Brechin community campus in 2016.
At that point, the doors could have been shut for good.
The group was awarded charitable status in 2018.
It has proved a model partnership BCHug is determined to build on as part of the town’s pandemic recovery.
Strong volunteer committee
Chairman Ron Stewart leads a dozen dedicated volunteers who oversee the running of the hall.
There are around ten regular user groups – from film club to farmers’ market – with hopes high that the recent changes will swell support.
A new kitchen, ladies toilet and a range of backstage and on-stage work are among the key improvements.
“The pandemic gave us the chance to do all this work that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise been able to fit in around the hall events if we’d still be open,” said Ron.
“So although we have been closed for so long, in one way it has been a blessing in disguise.
“We saw the opportunity and just got in gear.”
Sound and lighting improvements
Volunteers supplied the elbow grease for strip out works and BCHug have been keen to use local firms for the professional parts of the project.
A completely re-designed and user-friendly stage has been created.
Sound and lighting improvements and an entire new fly floor have also been delivered.
Every bit of income is ploughed back into the Angus hall.
BCHug treasurer Gordon Smith said: “The first five years of the lease with the council passed in June and, in that time, I reckon we’ve spent £150,000 in upgrades and maintenance.
“When you add in the volunteers’ work, you’re probably looking towards £1/4 million.”
Mr Stewart added: “People who haven’t used the hall for a while, or maybe not been here at all, are always amazed at what we have.
“We’re really delighted with the improvements so we hope even more people will use it for functions and events.
“We’d also love to hear from anyone with old photos of the hall.
“Folk who perhaps got married here, held birthday parties or other celebrations.
“It would be great to show the photos at the open day and then we are planning a more permanent display of images.”