Byre Theatre could reopen by summer

Supporters who gathered to call for the Byre Theatre to be saved earlier this week.

Hopes are increasing that the Byre Theatre could reopen by the end of the summer under new management.

The St Andrews theatre will shut its doors on Thursday after being plunged into liquidation but could re-emerge in a partnership between Fife Council and the recently formed Fife Cultural Trust.

An online campaign has called for the theatre to stay open, but with The Byre Theatre of St Andrews Ltd set to go into liquidation imminently, it appears increasingly likely that the theatre building, owned by Fife Council, will reopen in the near future under the umbrella of the Fife Cultural Trust.

The trust, which was originally due to welcome the Byre on April 1, already operates theatres in Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and Lochgelly.

Byre Theatre directors have told The Courier that debts amount to a “six-figure sum” and that financial advice was sought from accountants Henderson Loggie when it became clear there was simply no cash left to pay wages.

The theatre has struggled to make ends meet since the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) removed its flexible funding in 2010, a key grant of £160,000 a year.

Internal restructuring and good ticket sales were not enough to save the operation.

Directors say the loss of the SAC revenue funding proved to be pivotal in the demise of the company that runs the building.

Yesterday, both Fife Council, which also funds the theatre, and Creative Scotland (CS), the successor arts funding organisation to the SAC, confirmed they have no desire for the building revamped at a cost of £5.5 million in 2001 to remain closed for long.

Fife Council head of leisure and cultural services Grant Ward told The Courier he was optimistic that the Byre Theatre under a new management structure could reopen as a working theatre by August/September, “or sooner if viable”.

He was meeting with administrators to discuss possible council acquisition of the Byre Theatre Ltd-owned fixtures and fittings, which would facilitate the Byre continuing.

He said: “The Byre Theatre of St Andrews Ltd looks to be gone, but we still own the building and hope it can still be a fully functioning theatre. We are in discussions with Creative Scotland and the administrators. I expect the building to be back under full council control by Friday.”

The Courier understands that Fife Council would not be liable for Byre debts and would hope to get the fixtures and fittings for minimal outlay. The one tangible asset owned by The Byre Theatre of St Andrews Ltd is their theatre workshop on Largo Road (understood to have been valued last year at £170,000). Creditors could push for a quick sale of this.

It is likely that if a new Byre did emerge at the end of the summer, it would have a slimmed down staff.

The council is also hopeful that taking up the Cultural Trust business model would “change the financial dynamics” of the theatre and make it more viable.

Creative Scotland has given money to the theatre since 2010 in total it has received £435,970 for various projects and programmes, as well as receiving last year’s Creative Place award, worth £150,000.

With the theatre to join the trust prior to the current crisis, a total of £130,000 “transition funding” had been made available to the Byre Theatre by CS and Fife Council.

For more in-depth Byre Theatre coverage, see Wednesday’s Courier or try our new digital edition.