Byre Theatre

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Byre Theatre
Byre Theatre, St Andrews.jpg
The back of the Byre Theatre
Address Abbey Street
St Andrews, Fife
Scotland
Owner Fife Council
Capacity Main auditorium 220
Lawrence Levy 40-80
Construction
Opened 1933
Rebuilt 2001, Nicoll Russell Studios
Website
www.byretheatre.com

The Byre Theatre is a theatre in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, originally founded in 1933 by Charles Marford, an actor (found in the who's who of 1921) and Alexander B Paterson, a local journalist and playwright, with help from a theatre group made up from members of Hope Park Church, St Andrews.[1]

Today's Byre Theatre was built by award winning architects Nicoll Russell Studios of Broughty Ferry, Dundee. The theatre grew from Charles Marford and A.B. Paterson's aspirations for a truly modern theatre addressing the needs of the entire community. The current building was opened in 2001 by Sean Connery. Its main auditorium is named A.B. Paterson. There is also a second 80-seat performance space named after the late golf photographer, Lawrence Levy. The theatre is said to be haunted by the benevolent ghost of Charles Marford one of its key founders.

History[edit]

The Byre Theatre's first home was a disused cow byre which the group cleaned out and ran as the St. Andrews Play Club, giving performances to audiences who sat on cushions on the floor. Within a couple of years, the Byre Theatre had established a considerable reputation running a programme of performances which attracted audiences the theatre was barely able to hold.

In 1969, the original building was demolished to make way for a new housing development, and in 1970 the second building was opened. At a cost of £40,000, funded by a public appeal and the local authority, it was modeled on the Mermaid Theatre in London.[2] The facilities were modest, for both public and staff, but it was thought to be rather grand compared to its predecessor.

A. B. Paterson's last ambition was yet again to modernise and refurbish the Byre Theatre to meet current expectations and requirements, in particular to address the inadequate facilities for those with special access needs, including visual or audio impairment.

At the time of his death in 1989, a proposal for expansion of the theatre's facilities had been initiated.

A cut in funding in 2006 meant that the Byre has had to abandon producing its own plays, and subsequently provided a venue for visiting productions and community activities.[3]

In January 2013, the theatre went into administration and ceased hosting performances[4] despite a sustained campaign by "Save the Byre Theatre" activists, endorsed by figures like Sean Connery.[5]

The University of St Andrews announced in August 2014 that the theatre was to reopen under the management of the University, after striking a deal with owners Fife Council and Creative Scotland. Under the agreement, which takes the form of a 25-year lease, the Byre will be used as a theatre, educational resource, general arts venue and music centre. When the announcement was made, the University stressed that the "rescue package will be delivered at no cost to council tax payers in Fife who hitherto had subsidised the ailing theatre".[6]

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