South Scotland

Dumfries Theatre Royal survival fund package allocated

Theatre Royal
Image caption The funding will allow improvements to be carried out at the Theatre Royal

A £315,000 funding package has been earmarked to safeguard the future of Scotland's oldest working theatre.

Nithsdale area committee councillors gave their support to the Theatre Royal in Dumfries at a meeting on Wednesday.

The money would help carry out repairs and improvements to the building in order to keep it wind and watertight and extend its life by 10 years.

Final approval to release the funds must now be given by Dumfries and Galloway Council's policy committee.

Master of the theatre's Guild of Players, Alan Henry, said he hoped they would give the green light for the investment.

He said they were "absolutely delighted" at the support which had been a "long time coming".

"Of course it is not the end of the road, it is only a recommendation to the policy committee," he said.

"But I think it sends out a very strong message to the rest of the council that this development is required in Dumfries."

Escalating costs

The theatre was built in 1792 and has been owned by the local Guild of Players for more than 50 years.

A £5.5m project was drawn up about six years ago to rebuild a new arts venue on the site.

A funding package between Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Scottish Arts Council and the European Regional Development Fund had also been agreed.

That particular project was refused planning permission by the local authority in July 2005.

A revised scheme was subsequently submitted and approved the following year.

However, it required an additional council contribution and the authority baulked at the escalating costs and the project ultimately collapsed.

Now it is hoped the latest funding package could give a longer-term future to the venue which once boasted Robert Burns as a patron and helped to inspire JM Barrie to write plays.

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