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Report on future of theatre in Dunfermline delayed

Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline forms part of the discussions - which have so far failed to bear fruit.
Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline forms part of the discussions - which have so far failed to bear fruit.

A report outlining recommendations for the future of theatre in Dunfermline is unlikely to go before councillors until March at the earliest.

Independent consultants have been commissioned to look at the way ahead for theatre management in the town following a row over funding this time last year, but members of Fife’s education, health and social care scrutiny committee heard that the consultants’ report has been delayed for the time being.

The document, which will examine how the Alhambra Theatre and the Fife Cultural Trust-run Carnegie Hall could develop a “closer working relationship”, should now be presented to the scrutiny committee on March 14.

However, no guarantees on that timescale were given, amid fears that the study might not now be considered before May’s council elections.

Councillor Bill Brown, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting, said he was “disappointed” the report was not ready and quizzed council officers on who might be to blame for the delay.

In turn, Gordon Mole, business and employability senior manager, said the consultants had sought a range of financial and operational information from the two theatres and the council, adding that there had been delays in receiving some of the information requested.

“The consultants were gathering a range of information, partly around governance and partly around programming, and where the issue occurred was in receiving financial information from the parties,” he added.

“The council provided all the information but it did take the consultants longer than anticipated to work through the financial information provided to them by the two trusts.

“There is some complexity around Carnegie Hall and it took the consultants a while to unpick that.

“I also understand the Alhambra provided the details requested but the general manager was then taken ill for some time.

“That’s not the fault of the Alhambra, that’s the circumstances in which the consultants found themselves.”

The call to draw up a way forward for theatre provision was borne out of the furore which surfaced last January, when a Fife Council committee report noted that the Alhambra Theatre Trust (ATT) faced an “uncertain future” and could even close within two months without recurring annual funding from Fife Council to support costs.

One-year funding of £150,000 was approved by Fife’s executive committee, but that decision was subsequently suspended when the ATT stressed it had “never asked for” and did not intend to accept the cash.

The fallout from that episode sparked a wider debate about theatre in Dunfermline, and councillors agreed that options should be produced by both trusts, the ATT and Fife Cultural Trust, “taking cognisance of the impact on other theatres in Fife” for further scrutiny.

The Dunfermline Theatres Working Group was then set up in February 2016, formed of representatives from Fife Council, Fife Cultural Trust and the Alhambra Theatre Trust.

Given that background, Mr Mole was then asked by Councillor Ian Sloan if he felt the three parties could make a go of things, to which he replied: “I think the test point will be when the working group have the opportunity to discuss collectively, and I hope, frankly, any recommendations made in the report.

“From my point of view we continue to work hard in trying to maintain engagement, and all parties continue to be engaged in the process.”

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