Sep 3 2010 Dumfries Standard Friday
SIR – Having visited the excellent Theatre Royal exhibition in the Midsteeple showing the history of this unique playhouse, I met some of the Guild of Players who have for many years worked and struggled to keep this theatre going.
This is the oldest working theatre in Scotland dating back to 1790, frequented by Robert Burns and many other interesting people.
Theatre items from this period were on show and can also be seen in the local museum.
Recently a full assessment was carried out on the condition and history of the building which showed that urgent repairs were needed but remains of earlier parts of the theatre still existed.
Early theatres attract audiences; the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, Yorkshire is a prime example.
This had fallen out of use but was rescued and restored some years ago.
The friends of the theatre were able to acquire a small building adjoining the theatre, this has now been rebuilt as a modern extension which enhances the old stone playhouse building.
The theatre stands on a narrow road, busy with traffic, in a very similar position to the Dumfries theatre.
The AHSS was appalled to hear of the proposal to use some of the Town Regeneration Fund to place a huge billboard on the Midsteeple.
This has recently been totally refurbished and is listed Cat A.
This appears to be a total waste of money as well as the desecration of an historic building.
Surely this regeneration fund should be being spent on buildings such as the Theatre Royal, this being one of the iconic buildings in Dumfries.
Judging by the comments from the public in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, the people of Dumfries also feel that this is inappropriate.
The Guild of Players have recently applied for a grant to carry out urgent repairs to heating and other items in the building. This should be given urgently. If money could be raised from the Regeneration Fund then it might be possible to obtain the adjoining empty shop and house to create a modern extension, similar to Richmond, bringing the existing theatre up to a desirable historic standard.
We would hope that the council would take the wishes of the local people into account and this theatre can once again help in the regeneration of Dumfries.
Cases Panel secretary
The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland