Cumbernauld Theatre to be closed as council confirm £4m replacement at Cumbernauld Academy

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 20:02 on 4 February 2014.
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Theatre will move to Cumbernauld Academy. Pic: Cumbernauld Media.

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PROPOSALS for Cumbernauld Theatre’s final encore became firm ambitions today, after North Lanarkshire Councillors voted to bring the curtain down on Cumbernauld Theatre’s forty-two year history.

Members of the council’s Learning and Leisure Services committee were asked at a meeting today (4th December) to close the town’s much-loved Theatre, and move the facility to Cumbernauld high school, when the promised ‘Cumbernauld Academy’ campus is built in the coming years.

At a meeting this afternoon, councillors on the committee backed council proposals to bring down the curtain on Cumbernauld Theatre’s existing building off of Woodland Way, in Kildrum.

Ambitious plans for a new Theatre have since been set out by North Lanarkshire Council, with the authority promising to install a brand new, state-of-the-art, 400 seat performance venue in the much anticipated ‘Cumbernauld Academy’ rebuild.

The council’s Learning and Leisure Services committee were asked to approve the authority’s plans, with the committee’s report on the matter saying that the proposal would lead to “exciting opportunities” for ‘Cumbernauld Academy’.

The agenda said: “…a campus approach to include Cumbernauld Theatre presents an exciting opportunity for the curriculum which could provide the new Cumbernauld Academy with a strong arts and culture specialism. It would be proposed that in this instance due to the specialism that the theatre would bring, the school would access the relevant enhanced theatre accommodation for curriculum use during the school day.”

“The theatre already delivers youth dance and drama workshops as well as spaces for professional adult artists, writers and musicians and community groups in addition to traditional productions,” the agenda added. 

“The prospect of having a living and breathing professional theatre company linked to Cumbernauld Academy presents a one off opportunity for both the school community and the wider community.”

Opened in 1961, Cumbernauld Theatre was born after a small group of determined residents persuaded the Cumbernauld Development Corporation to lease them a row of old abandoned farm cottages. When it first opened the Theatre was known as ‘Cumbernauld Cottage Theatre’, becoming a hit with local residents almost immediately, with over 20,000 people attending performances at the Theatre each year nowadays.

Any new facility would be likely to cost in the region of £4million, according to North Lanarkshire Council, with Councillor Jim Logue, the Convener of the authority’s Learning and Leisure Services committee saying the plans offer an “exciting development” .

Cllr Logue said: "Cumbernauld Theatre Trust is one of the most progressive and respected in the country, with over 20,000 people attending events each year and hundreds of people taking part in drama and dance classes each week. This exciting development will give the people of Cumbernauld a facility of national significance and go a long way to matching the group's ambitions.

"By sharing the site with the new Cumbernauld Academy, the development also makes financial as well as common sense as costs will be lower as factors such as ground works, car parking, plant rooms and heating systems don't need to be duplicated.

"This development, focussing on the arts and drama coupled with the exciting sporting developments to be part of the new Greenfaulds High School, will bring considerable benefits to the communities in and around Cumbernauld,” Cllr Logue added.

The pledges of a new Theatre facility were welcomed by pupils and staff at the current Cumbernauld high school complex, with Mark Cairns, the Head Teacher of Cumbernauld Academy, describing the announcement as a “fantastic opportunity”.

Mr Cairns said: "This is such an exciting development for pupils, staff and the wider community and provides a fantastic opportunity for the new school to develop a strong arts and culture specialism.

"The prospect of having a living and breathing professional theatre company linked to Cumbernauld Academy presents a unique opportunity for both the school community and the wider community."

Cumbernauld Academy was created following the merger of Cumbernauld High School with Abronhill High School. The two high schools will officially merge in August, when the new school year commences. 

Plans for a much hyped new build school on the current Cumbernauld High School campus, meanwhile, are in development, but James McKinstry, the council’s Head of Resources explaining how a new Cumbernauld Academy, and conjoined Theatre complex will develop “strong links” between the school and nearby community.

Mr McKinstry said: "Cumbernauld Theatre essentially remains the same theatre building as it was in 1972. Some 40 years later there has been no significant change in the building design, spaces or fabric of the buildings to accommodate changing patterns of use, the needs of performers, artists and audience.”

He added: "Given these factors, both North Lanarkshire Council and Cumbernauld Theatre Board are keen to develop a new facility, which will allow larger audiences, new services to the community and strong links with the new Cumbernauld Academy."

Funding for both the new Cumbernauld Academy on Kildrum ring road and a brand new Cumbernauld Theatre facility will be met through North Lanarkshire Council's Schools and Centres 21 budget, with Cumbernauld Theatre’s limited, charitable trust, due to make funding applications to Creative Scotland to assist with the fitting out of the new theatre.

Ed Robson, Artistic Director, explained how everybody involved with the Theatre, and its work are “thrilled” by the proposals.

Mr Robson said: "Everyone associated with Cumbernauld Theatre is truly thrilled with the prospect of working with North Lanarkshire Council and Creative Scotland to fulfil our vision of moving to a modern purpose built facility. Our current building has served us well over many years but the time is right to move on."

Cumbernauld Theatre Company delivers a range of arts activities delivered by professional artists and performers, development projects, bespoke educational/community projects for schools and other community group partners alongside creating high quality professional theatre productions and co-productions which tour annually across Scotland. 

The Theatre, itself, is a well-respected major arts and entertainment venue, within the community of Scottish professional theatre, with the company appointed as a foundation organisation within Creative Scotland's portfolio of supported organisations, in June 2012; an award which has been issued to other major national level theatres such as the Citizens Theatre and the Traverse Theatre.

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