The Byre Theatre in St Andrews has closed because of lack of funds. Three proposals for the building have been put to Fife Council, including one from St Andrews University. This proposal does not depend on external financial support, and I fear this makes it much more attractive. But it would be the end of the Byre Theatre.
Universities do research and education, not theatre. St Andrews would allow outside groups to use the Byre, on some evenings and weekends. This would not work.
Imagine this in, say, a health centre. During office hours, there are patients, doctors, nurses, administrators and their equipment, supplies and records. Then stagehands, actors, musicians, carpenters, electricians and sound engineers have hours to build a set, rehearse, admit the public, perform, and replace everything by Monday morning.
Finance should not be the only criterion. The council must choose whether to fill potholes or support the performing arts. It cannot spend the same money twice. However, potholes will always be with us. A pothole filled is a good thing, but a stirring performance can stay with a person for life, can open a child’s mind, can inspire any of us to new heights.
Has the Byre lost income by not appealing to a wider audience? I don’t know. If so, a change in policy might help. But if the university takes it, the possibility will be lost for good. The university proposal includes a viable financial plan. That may show the Byre a way forward.
(Dr) Norman Paterson