Dundee and Kirkcaldy theatres placed on “at risk” register

© Supplied
The inside of the former ABC cinema in Kirkcaldy High Street, which could be given a new lease of life.

Two prominent Courier country theatres have been included on a new list of those deemed to be most at risk across the UK.

The King’s Theatre in Dundee and the King’s Theatre in Kirkcaldy have both been included on the Theatres Trust’s 10th annual Theatres At Risk Register, which highlights the buildings which have fallen into a serious state of disrepair over the years.

Both local sites now have campaign groups who see the buildings’ potential and are working to secure their long-term sustainable future, although Theatres Trust is keen to see campaigners’ plans come to fruition before it is too late.

Trust trustee and well-known comedian Dara Ó Briain has lent his support to the Trust’s own drive to raise awareness of buildings at risk, as well as those fighting to save the theatres affected.

“As a touring stand up comedian I have travelled up and down this country and worked in many of the theatres here and you have a unique and rich heritage of theatres that were built in the last 200 years,” he commented.

“But we can’t take that for granted.

“Local community support is vital in breathing new life into theatres.

“If a theatre in your community was in danger of being lost forever would you help fight for it?”

Just a fortnight ago, the group behind ambitious plans to regenerate the King’s Theatre in Kirkcaldy – perhaps better known as the former ABC Cinema in the High Street – reached a major milestone when it secured ownership of the site.

The King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy group, which wants to turn the building into a modern concert hall, has been crowdfunding over the last few months to help realise its dream, and the purchase of the site has been made possible thanks to a deal between the group and the building’s previous owners following assistance from philanthropist John Sim.

Meanwhile, campaigners have long been calling for the King’s Theatre in Dundee to be revived in some shape or form.

The King’s is important as the only surviving large touring theatre in the Dundee area and once hosted the biggest names in entertainment, including Sir Harry Lauder, Margaret Lockwood and Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

The King's Theatre in Dundee back in its heyday.© DC Thomson
The King’s Theatre in Dundee back in its heyday.

Closed as a cinema in 1982, part of the building was subsequently run as a bingo hall and then partly as a themed bar and nightclub.

An external inspection from Historic Scotland from May this year has indicated that the building remains in much the same condition as seen previously, namely that the Cowgate elevation masonry is notably damp in sections and two second floor windows are beginning to move inwards.

As a result, the King’s Theatre Trust has been actively campaigning to purchase and restore the theatre for live performances together with the adjoining Continental Ballroom to provide retail and bar/restaurant facilities.

Rebecca Morland, interim director of the Theatres Trust, concluded: “Each theatre on the Register has an important place in its community.

“Our experience shows us that where campaign groups are in place, they can make a real difference to the future of these theatres.

“The progress that has been made with theatres in Brighton, Burnley and Kirkcaldy – to name but three – is a real testament to this.”