Dumfries Theatre Royal project secures further support

Theatre Royal The Theatre Royal has secured a second funding deal this week towards plans for a £2m overhaul

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A £2m overhaul of Scotland's oldest working theatre has landed its second support boost in a matter of days.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given the Theatre Royal project development funding which could pave the way for a grant of more than £280,000.

Earlier this week Dumfries and Galloway Council freed up £455,000 held in reserves to help fund the scheme.

HLF Scotland's Colin McLean said it was keen to see the "long-standing tradition of live theatre" continue.

The announcement of a "first-round pass" for the theatre plans includes development funding of £20,900.

That constitutes an "endorsement of outline proposals" and allows a detailed bid for a more substantial sum to be put together.

History of the Theatre Royal in Dumfries

Robert Burns
  • Opened in 1792 with building costs of £800, Robert Burns is among its early patrons
  • Stage improved in 1830 followed by a "radical renovation" in 1876
  • Flat maple floor installed in early 1900s to take advantage of Victorian craze for roller skating
  • Converted to use as a cinema but succumbed to the competition of television and closed in 1954
  • Bought by the Guild of Players in 1959 and reopened the following year
  • Plans for a £7m demolition and rebuild project collapsed due to funding problems in 2006
  • In 2011 the Holywood Trust helped to save the theatre from a closure threat by pledging to support £2m upgrade plans

Source: Theatre Royal Dumfries website

Mr McLean said the HLF was delighted to give its initial support to the refurbishment.

"Sharing its past, which is interwoven with the history and cultural traditions of Dumfries, will inspire and involve people of all ages in memorable and rewarding experiences which will enrich their lives," he said.

Alan Henry, development convenor for the Guild of Players which owns the theatre, said it was another welcome boost.

"We are delighted that HLF has joined the growing number of organisations and individuals which are supporting the Guild of Players in our project to transform the historic Theatre Royal into a theatre fit for the 21st Century," he said.

"In particular, this grant will allow us to make the theatre's heritage accessible to all.

"Its significant heritage, as the oldest working theatre in Scotland, relates to Scottish and local social history and in physical terms includes the building, costumes, people, scripts and props."

On the back of its latest support, the HLF is hosting events in Dumfries and Galloway to encourage more heritage projects to come forward for funding.

The organisation has recognised that the region has not submitted as many applications as other parts of Scotland so has designated it a priority area.

Voluntary organisations and community groups are being invited to attend the funding workshops on 29 May at DG One in Dumfries and on 30 May at Wigtown County Buildings.

Mr McLean said: "There is huge potential to showcase the heritage and culture of Dumfries and Galloway and we are pleased to be working with the council in encouraging local organisations and groups to come up with projects that will involve them in the history of their community.

"Many people think that heritage is just castles and works of art, but it is so much more.

"The environment, local industries, communities and traditions, all make us who we are today."

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