New National Theatre of Scotland HQ unveiled

It promises to be powerhouse of creativity that will unearth Scotland's theatre-makers and stage stars of the future.

One of the three dedicated rehearsal rooms at Rockvilla.
One of the three dedicated rehearsal rooms at Rockvilla.

A former cash and carry warehouse in Glasgow’s canal quarter has become a sleek new home for the National Theatre for Scotland.

It has relocated from a cramped office block over the last few months and will be able to significantly reduce its running costs at the two-storey complex, where around 500 staff and 700 freelance workers will be based.

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However NTS believes the entire Scottish theatre sector will benefit from the £6.5 million development, which has been in the planning stages for more than five years.

The National Theatre of Scotland's new costume-making workshop.

Actors, writers, directors, set designers and costume-makers will all work under the one roof at “Rockvilla,” which has been created at the Speirs Wharf canal quarter, just north of the M8 motorway.

The advent of the “creative factory” will allow major productions to be rehearsed on actual theatre sets for the first time, yards from where they are designed and built.

NTS, which celebrated its 10th birthday last year, also boasts proper wardrobe and costume-making facilities for the first time.

There are spaces for brainstorming ideas for shows, and hosting workshops for students, community groups and school pupils, while a vast production workshop and storage facility will house sets and equipment.

The vast production workshop and technical store at Rockvilla.

The 40,000 sq ft complex - which has revived a 19th century name for part of North Glasgow which dates back to the 19th century. Rockvilla has been designed by Hoskins Architects, a Glasgow firm behind ongoing overhauls of Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Ian McDiarmid, Blythe Duff, Greg Hemphill, Alan Cumming and Lorraine McIntosh were among the NTS alumni to back a fundraising campaign for Rockvilla, which was also supported by Euromillions winners Colin and Chris Weir to the tune of £1 million.

The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have contributed £2 million and £500,000 respectively to the project, which was instigated by former artistic director Vicky Featherstone before she stepped down in 2012.

Dame Seona Reid, NTS chair, insisted the advent of Rockvilla would not mean any watering down of either its founding ethos of “theatre without walls” or its national remit.

Costumes from hit shows like "Tutti Frutti" are among those kept in the wardrobe facility at Rockvilla.

She said: “We’ve always had rehearsal spaces, technical stores, administration offices in Glasgow. The difference in the past was that these were spread across the city. The inefficiencies were enormous. Rockvilla will ensure we have a much more integrated company.

But it’s an engine room, not an engine. The emphasis on us has to be balanced with the fact we’ve never seen this as a self-interested development. We’ve always seen it as being just as much for the theatre community in Scotland.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The National Theatre of Scotland cannot be constrained by one city, one building or one stage. But what is created from within these walls will be taken to all over Scotland and beyond.

“Rockvilla is a big statement of confidence in NTS, which now has one space to create productions from initiation right through to rehearsal, rather than four different locations, and really reach out in terms of talent development.”

The National Theatre of Scotland's new costume-making workshop.

Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety, who officially opened Rockvilla with Ms Hyslop, added: "This fantastic building is not only the engine room for the National Theatre of Scotland and the wider theatre community, but is also the latest act in the growing number of cultural organisations locating in this part of the city, all playing a key role in its regeneration."

The vast production workshop and technical store at Rockvilla.
Costumes from hit shows like "Tutti Frutti" are among those kept in the wardrobe facility at Rockvilla.