Holyrood pledges support for Byre Theatre efforts

Protesters gather outside St Andrews' Byre Theatre. Picture: Neil Doig
Protesters gather outside St Andrews' Byre Theatre. Picture: Neil Doig
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THE Scottish Government has pledged its “full support” for efforts to reopen a popular theatre which closed its doors last month after going into liquidation.

Fife Council has hosted a major summit on the fate of the Byre Theatre, in St Andrews, two weeks after staff were told the venue was insolvent and would have to close its doors.

It is hoped the stricken venue may be able to reopen under the umbrella of the Fife Cultural Trust, a new body set up by the council to run its flagship arts venues, which the Byre had been due to transfer into before its financial collapse.

Arts agency Creative Scotland, which was criticised for axing regular funding for the venue, and Fife Council, who own the building, were both involved in the summit, at the council’s headquarters in Glenrothes. However there was no announcement on when the venue may be able to reopen.

A statement issued by the council after the meeting said a fresh commitment had been given to finding “a viable solution for the long-term future of the building.”

No funding has been agreed for a possible bail-out, with the various assets of the theatre company still in the hands of the liquidators, although the council and Creative Scotland are hoping to join forces to snap them up.

Accountants advised the board of the Byre to close the venue immediately after it emerged it was due to run out of money in the middle of this month, despite being awarded almost £600,000 by Creative Scotland over the past three years.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I’m pleased to have been able to facilitate this meeting between Fife MSPs, Fife Council and Creative Scotland to discuss the future of the Byre Theatre.

“The Byre is a well-loved venue and its closure was clearly a blow to the community.

“Fife Council, Fife Cultural Trust, Creative Scotland, MSPs and councillors from all political parties have made a commitment to work together to see the Byre reopen with a secure future. These discussions have the full support of the Scottish Government.”

David Ross, deputy leader of Fife Council, said: “It is clear that no-one expected this sudden closure of the Byre and that some time is needed to take stock of the situation.

“There is a lot of hard work already underway to ensure a positive future for the Byre and the good news is that everyone gave a fresh commitment to work together and with the Fife Cultural Trust to find a viable solution for the long term future of the Byre.

“At the moment the formal liquidation process is still under way and we are working with Creative Scotland and the liquidators to retain the fixtures and fittings needed for the future operation of the theatre.

“Whilst there are no guarantees at this stage, I am very pleased that there is a real will amongst all the organisations concerned to see the Byre open again as soon as is realistically possible.”