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Theatres in Stirling, Scotland

Introduction - The Corn Exchange - The Union Hall - The Arcade Theatre/ Alhambra Theatre / Town Hall Theatre - The Olympia Variety Hall - The Albert Halls - The Little Theatre / Richmond Hall / Richmond Cinema / New Gaiety Theatre - The MacRobert Arts Centre - The Tolbooth Arts Centre - The Palace Gardens

A Google StreetView Image of the Albert Halls in Dumbarton Road, Stirling - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Albert Halls in Dumbarton Road, Stirling - Click to Interact.

Strategically sited where the Highlands meet the Lowlands, with the River Forth coursing its way through, and formed at the foot of Stirling Castle, with its Great Hall, once home of the Stewart kings, the former capital of Scotland, ancient royal burgh and nowadays city of Stirling expanded in the 19th century. From being a market and military town, and small port trading with the Low Countries, it soon included the manufacture of textiles and carpets, coal-mining, light engineering and cigarette production. Its increasing population now became more prosperous, and with more time to enjoy music and entertainments. With railways close at hand, the Theatres of Glasgow attracted many. The first purpose built Theatre in Stirling was the Arcade Hall, or Theatre, in 1882 which later changed its name to the Alhambra; the second, a year after the Arcade Hall opened, were the Albert Halls (shown above) - which the Town Council bought in 1945, as part of the peace time commemorations, and continue today. In 1971 the newly opened University of Stirling was joined within its campus by the MacRobert Arts Centre and Theatre.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

The Corn Exchange, King Street, Stirling

Stirling's Corn Exchange building, owned by the Burgh Council, was active from the late 1830s with - in addition to its agricultural business and auctions - civic meetings, soirees, dances and theatrical productions including plays, concerts, variety, panoramas and circus. (It is known that, before the Corn Exchange, the Merchants` Guildhall, a name given to Cowane`s Hospital near the castle, hosted some plays in the second half of the 18th century.) The exchange hall accommodated over 1,200 people. The immense Corn Exchange sat at the junction of King Street and Spittal Street and can be seen in this zoomable Town Map of c1860. Often, productions in a week were staged for three days here and three days in Perth City Hall.

An Advertisement from May 1850 for Horatio Lloyd at the Corn Exchange, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Horatio Lloyd appeared here in the 1850s and 1860s, and Arthur Lloyd soon followed. Arthur Lloyd and W.G. Ross jointly headlined in April 1862 and Arthur Lloyd's annual tour in April 1865 was well reported in the Stirlingshire Observer saying:- 'On Thursday evening, Mr Lloyd, of the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, gave select dramatic entertainment in the Corn-Exchange to a large and fashionable audience...'

Right - An Advertisement from May 1850 for Horatio Lloyd at the Corn Exchange, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

'...He was assisted by Mr Fitzroy, the celebrated comedian; Mr W. H. Kendale, Miss Jane Wood, Miss Lewis, and Miss Adelaide Golier, all from the Glasgow Theatre Royal. An elegant portable drawing-room was fitted up on the platform for the occasion. The laughable comedietta entitled "Naval Engagements" opened the evening's entertainments, and it is needless to say that Mr Fitzroy, as "Admiral Kingston," did all justice to his part, playing it with a felicitous heartiness which completely brought down the house; the other characters of the comedy were equally well sustained. "Phenomenon of a Smock Frock" and "The Loan of a Lover" followed, and were capitally played. Mr Fitzroy afterwards gave a reading from Bulwer's " Lady of Lyons." Mr Lloyd sung a few of his well-known comic songs during the evening, all of which were highly appreciated by the audience. Mr Dunbar ably presided at the pianoforte, and performed with much taste at intervals during the evening some excellent pieces, including Mr Arthur Lloyd's Quadrille. It is seldom that a Stirling audience is afforded the opportunity of enjoying an entertainment so altogether first-class as that given on Thursday evening. Mr James Graham, music-seller, had charge of the same, and we need hardly add that his arrangements were excellent.'

Arthur Lloyd frequently entertained with his Grand Comic Concerts in the Corn Exchange throughout 1866.

The Corn Exchange was cleared away in 1914 to make way for the new Municipal Buildings but the Corn Exchange Tavern (and former hotel) which first opened in 1817 survived for a time and became a Temperance Restaurant and Rest Rooms.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Union Hall, Thistle Street at Murray Place, Stirling

Opened around 1860, and designed by architects Francis and William Mackison of Stirling, the Union Hall was often used for hustings, lectures, conferences, recitals, concerts and frequent musical festivals – the most sought after, and acclaimed, being the annual Musical Festivals sponsored by the pioneering Stirling School of Arts. The School of Arts Library formed part of the Union Hall Buildings.

Sir Campbell-Bannerman, future Prime Minister, made his first speech as a Liberal candidate, previously having been a Tory, in the Union Hall in 1868. Later that year he became MP for Stirling Burghs. The hall was eventually sold in 1895 for use as offices and a bonded warehouse for a firm of whisky blenders. Around 1920 part of the (now) old building was used to form the site of a new Thistle Picture House illustrated in this compendium of cinemas.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Arcade Theatre, Stirling Arcade (Linking King Street and Murray Place)

Formerly - The Town Hall Theatre / The Alhambra Theatre

A Street directory advertisement of 1886 for the Town Hall Theatre in the Arcade, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The opening of Stirling's first purpose built Theatre, the Town Hall Theatre, was in 1882, which later became known as the Arcade Theatre, and around 1914, the Alhambra Theatre. This formed part of William Crawford's major arcaded development which he started in 1879, linking King Street and Murray Place.

Right - A Street directory advertisement of 1886 for the Town Hall Theatre in the Arcade, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In 1944 the Theatre was bought by, and its spaces incorporated into, the town's largest departmental store and outfitters, Thomas Menzies of King Street. The Stirling Arcade continues today as a significant place and shopping centre, to be enjoyed in person and thanks to Google can be enjoyed here.

A Postcard showing Stirling's King Street, and the entrance to Stirling Arcade, its Theatre being the distant building on the right hand row, with entrance columns and canopy - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard showing Stirling's King Street, and the entrance to Stirling Arcade, its Theatre being the distant building on the right hand row, with entrance columns and canopy - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

An early interior photograph showing the Stirling Arcade and entrance to the Alhambra Theatre - Courtesy Stewart Donaldson.Historic Environment Scotland describes the Theatre:- 'The Arcade Theatre was situated within the arcade above the shops. Access was by the extant elegant cantilevered dog-leg staircase with decorative cast iron balusters and serpentine curved top landing on thin cast iron columns, with some fine decorative plasterwork. In 1964 the space [purchased in 1944] was converted to a furniture showroom for Thomas Menzies Limited. The fine interior detail was removed owing to its poor condition but managing director, Mr Stirling Farquhar, had a pictorial record made. The auditorium had two U-shaped balconies, supported on iron columns, with a vaulted ceiling of painted panels.'

Right - An early interior photograph showing the Stirling Arcade and entrance to the Alhambra Theatre - Courtesy Stewart Donaldson.

William Crawford's business was as a glass and china-ware merchant of Murray Place. A native of Stirlingshire, he became a moulder by trade and worked in Egypt for a firm of Liverpool engineers. On his return he settled in Glasgow and created a china business, moving to Stirling in 1872 and opening another china shop. He became a Stirling town councillor in 1877 and in time became convenor of its Works Committee carrying out public improvements.

Stirling Arcade central area today looking towards the former Alhambra Theatre entrance - Courtesy Juan Quintana.He was also a property developer in his own right, taking over numerous old buildings and constructing new ones on their sites, including hotels and restaurants. He opened his new Town Hall on the first floor of his Arcade Buildings with a grand concert on 16th September 1882. There were two halls, one being equipped for theatre, the other known as the Lesser Public Hall.

Left - Stirling Arcade central area today looking towards the former Alhambra Theatre entrance - Courtesy Juan Quintana.

An October 1918 advert with the John Ridding Opera Singers at the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The Theatre's main entrance was advertised as being from Murray Place, directly across from the railway station. Stirling had its own dramatic club, amateur orchestra, choral society, and two operatic societies. Prior to the Arcade the public made use of the Union Hall and the Corn Exchange Hall.  Crawford also operated the Arcade Hotel (later known as the Douglas Hotel) in Murray Place at that entrance to the arcade. The Temperance Hotel, developed by him, was at the King Street entrance.

Right - An October 1918 advert with the John Ridding Opera Singers at the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The arcade's architect, John McLean, was originally mason in charge of the building of the National Wallace Monument under the direction of Glasgow architect John T Rochhead. He became Stirling's Master of Works and soon concentrated on architecture, designing many villas of Stirling's west-end and the Stirling Arcade & Town Hall.

The halls were used for public and religious meetings, hustings, banquets, lectures, exhibitions, dancing and entertainments – concerts, revues, musical comedies, variety, plays, operas, pantomimes, and repertory.

The Stirling Alhambra Theatre's ceiling stripped back and awaiting possible restoration in 2017 - Courtesy of A. McEwan.

Above - The Stirling Alhambra Theatre's ceiling stripped back and awaiting possible restoration in 2017 - Courtesy of A. McEwan.

A Photograph of the John Ridding Opera Singers - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Crawford was granted a theatrical licence and his family added a cinematograph licence in the early 20th century.

Left - A Photograph of the John Ridding Opera Singers - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Theatre held over 1,200 people. The stage was 50 feet by 34 feet. Crawford directed the Theatre himself initially and then leased its management to others from time to time; the first such being Edmund Stiles who programmed it in conjunction with Perth's New Public Halls & Opera House, where Stiles was based. In turn, his successor was J.G. Sharpe who also ran the two venues together. Acts could also be booked in conjunction with Brickwell's Victory Theatre, Paisley.

In 1914/15 the halls were taken over for military purposes with 500 soldiers billeted there at any one time awaiting training and despatch to war. For much of the 1930s it concentrated on film. Drama festivals were introduced in the late 1930s.

The Crawford family sold the complete development in 1920 at which time it comprised two hotels, two halls, thirty-nine shops and six dwelling houses, all fully let.

An October 1918 advert for full variety headed by Theresa Collins in the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Fred Collins of the Collins Variety Agency, and about to take control of the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, became lessee and managing director from October 1918 to 1920, presenting bumper bills of fare and pantomimes, including those of Harry McKelvie of the Royal Princess's Theatre, Glasgow. He had plans to buy the Alhambra in Stirling but was pipped to the post at the end of 1920 by John (Jack) Calder who was operating the Golden Lion Hotel in King Street. Calder was of a licensed trade family in Glasgow, and had been assistant manager of the Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow; he also operated that city's Rock Villa dog track and the pony tracking ground in Govan. He was also the managing director of the Grand Theatre, Falkirk.

Right - An October 1918 advert for full variety headed by Theresa Collins in the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Following Calder's early demise the Alhambra merged in 1932 with the newly formed Stirling Cinema & Variety Theatres Ltd owned by the Menzies Brothers, automobile retailers and entertainment operators – who may have been related to the founders of the Thomas Menzies departmental store. Their cinemas included – the Kinema, Queen's Cinema, The Picture House and the art deco Allan Park.

After WW2 started the Alhambra did not reopen beyond November 1939 as the police authorities considered it too dangerous to allow the public to be in a darkened arcade, during wartime restrictions, and with poor exits for large scale evacuation.

An Advertisement from January 1939 for Lex McLean and company at the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - An Advertisement from January 1939 for Lex McLean and company at the Alhambra Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Evacuation rope exits being tried from the upper floors of the Douglas Hotel, Arcade, Stirling in 1941 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.During the war the public halls of Stirling were denied to social or community life – the Albert Hall was under military control, the Arcade Alhambra was closed by police instruction under the Defence of the Realm, but should hostilities cease the police would not object to its reopening, and the Little Theatre, Burghmuir, was an ARP post.

In 1944 the departmental store, Thomas Menzies Ltd, purchased the Theatre which gave them some welcome storage and allowed them to plan, once building restrictions were duly lifted in peacetime, to convert its spaces to accommodate their new furniture department showrooms.

Right - Evacuation rope exits being tried from the upper floors of the Douglas Hotel, Arcade, Stirling in 1941 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Modern photographs of what remains of the Theatre spaces and location together with plans of its layout and later uses by the departmental store can be seen in the Scottish Cinemas website here.

Some 1930s photographs of the Arcade can be seen here, and more about Stirling's cinemas 1911-1938 can be viewed here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Olympia Variety Hall, Orchard Place, foot of King Street, Stirling

Later - The Picture Palace

A Postcard showing Murray Place and Signage for the Olympia Picture Palace, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Postcard showing Murray Place and Signage for the Olympia Picture Palace, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The Stirling Olympia entranceway, courtesy Bruce Peter.First opened in 1909 as a roller skating rink with its orchestra performing at three sessions per day, and housed in an iron-framed building clad with corrugated iron and finished in wood, to the designs of Stirling architect Ronald Walker, it changed to being a cinema and variety hall in 1911, complete with pit, stalls and balcony. The seating capacity has been recorded variously as 300, and as 2,000. It provided film nights and also cine-variety nights with its own band, music hall artistes, singers, dancers, acrobats, instrumentalists and pantomimists.

Right - The Stirling Olympia entranceway, courtesy Bruce Peter.

An Advertisement from November 1918 for 'Over There' staged with an American cast at the Olympia, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.During 1914-18 it concentrated mainly on film, because variety halls were being dissuaded by Government to employ too many people who otherwise would be available for the war effort, but from Spring 1918 reintroduced professional variety.

Left - An Advertisement from November 1918 for 'Over There' staged with an American cast at the Olympia, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

It was destroyed by fire in February 1921, when ownership had changed from John Calder of the Alhambra to the Caledonian Picture Houses Co Ltd., Glasgow, which may have been a new Calder company.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Albert Halls, Albert Place, Dumbarton Road, Stirling

A Photograph of the Albert Halls, Stirling, courtesy Andrew Smith.

Above - A Photograph of the Albert Halls, Stirling, courtesy Andrew Smith.

An Advertisement from the ERA of August 1883 for the New Public Halls, Stirling (Albert Halls) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.The originator and chairman of Stirling's elegant New Public Halls, to be soon known as the Albert Halls and which continue today, was Robert Smith of Brentham Park House - Stirling's largest residence. He had succeeded his father in the textile industry and was the proprietor of the Cambusbarron Tweed Mills, which employed some 1,200 people. He was also a director of gold companies linked to Australia and South Africa. In 1890 when Stirling County Council was formed he was elected as its vice-convenor.

Right - An Advertisement from the ERA of August 1883 for the New Public Halls, Stirling (Albert Halls) - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The innovative Stirling Choral Society, which continues today, was formed in the 1850s helped by John Macfarlane of Coneyhill, Stirling who was a promoter of the arts, and museums, and a textile designer and merchant in Glasgow and Manchester where he learned madrigal singing. Its venues had included the large hall of the Corn Exchange; and when Smith became president it was obliged to be at the Smith Institute Art Gallery & Museum (no relation), which opened in Dumbarton Road in 1874. This was due to Macfarlane's patronage and the fact that the Macfarlane museum collection was within the Smith Institute. But Robert Smith kept looking for appropriate assembly rooms, as did the officers of the Highland Borderers Militia.

An Advertisement from December 1946 for Chalmers Wood presenting Christmas entertainment in the Albert Hall, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Despite spasmodic attempts the Town Council failed to make a town hall appear, and private enterprise stepped in. Smith took the lead in the formation of the Stirling Public Hall Company Ltd and shareholders joined from home and abroad. Land was feued from the Town Council a short distance from the ageing Corn Exchange and building work started in 1881 to the plans of Stirling architect William Simpson, Jnr.

Left - An Advertisement from December 1946 for Chalmers Wood presenting Christmas entertainment in the Albert Hall, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The classically styled building opened in its own ornamental gardens, its large hall, complete with stage and dressing rooms, accommodating 1,400 including gallery (but much later reduced to 1,000) and the lesser hall 300; both halls laid with polished pitch pine for dancing. The Theatre consultant to the company was E. L. Knapp of the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow. The halls opened on 5th October 1883 with the Choral Society performing The Messiah. Plays, concerts, musical festivals, musical comedies, and operas soon followed, as did public meetings, bazaars, dances and the annual prestigious Stirling County Ball each autumn, with dancing in the large hall, the smaller hall being used as a supper-hall and "a large marquee erected in the grounds at the front of the hall, and being handsomely furnished, made an admirable sitting-out place." Variety, pantomime and ballet developed mainly after 1945.

After WWII the Albert Halls, still staging concerts, theatre productions and hosting meetings, functions and exhibitions, were purchased by Stirling Town Council in 1945, and the Stirling Public Halls Company Ltd. was voluntarily wound up in 1947. The programme of events in the Albert Halls today can be seen at the council's website here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Little Theatre, The Craigs, Burghmuir, Stirling

Formerly - The Richmond Hall/ Richmond Cinema - Later - The New Gaiety Theatre

A December 1936 trade advert from The Stage for the Little Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1934 the Little Theatre opened in Burghmuir, close to the town centre. Also known as the New Gaiety Theatre in 1937, the hall-Theatre was owned by the enterprising Stirling Miners' Welfare Society.

Right - A December 1936 trade advert from The Stage for the Little Theatre, Stirling - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the early 1930s the Stirling architect John Bruce designed the suite of buildings funded by the Stirling Miners'Welfare Society. Included in the developments was a bowling green and two tennis courts created in 1932 and the Pavilion Hall, also known as the Lesser Pavilion Hall. Recognising its importance in open air sports the Scottish Amateur Cycling Association was founded there in 1937. There was also a library and the Randolph Hall, so named after Sir Charles Randolph, the famed shipbuilder and founder of the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow, who was schooled at Stirling High School. The Richmond Hall, seating 600 people, traded as the Richmond Cinema, under the auspices of the Society, from 1930 to November 1933 and from 1934 to the early 1950s it changed to live Theatre as the Little Theatre. During WWII the Little Theatre housed the town's Air Raid Precautions unit.

Stirling's Richmond Cinema, later the Little Theatre, Stirling photographed around 1930, courtesy of Hugh Thomson.From 1934 and into the 1950s it continued with concerts, musical comedy, repertory company seasons, drama festivals – in particular, the Miners' Welfare Drama Festivals, National Coal Board Festival of Dramatic Art and Scottish WRI Drama Festivals - variety shows, and sporting events. On variety days, and including Sundays for members and families, Dave Willis was one of its favourites. It also housed public meetings and hustings.

Left - Stirling's Richmond Cinema, later the Little Theatre, Stirling photographed around 1930, courtesy of Hugh Thomson.

An external photograph of the club rooms of Stirling Miners Welfare can be seen here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The MacRobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling, Airthrey, Stirling

A Photograph of the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling when newly opened - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Above - A Photograph of the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling when newly opened - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

Stirling University's founding Principal Tom Cottrell, instigator of the MacRobert Arts Centre, painting courtesy of the University of Stirling.The MacRobert Arts Centre opened in 1971 as an integral part of the new University of Stirling. When first appointed in 1965, the visionary and founding Principal Tom Cottrell – b.1923 d.1973 - a distinguished chemist and professor, sought the creation of a communal arts centre, a "special building" in Cottrell's own words, for the university and the neighbouring towns.

Right - Stirling University's founding Principal Tom Cottrell, instigator of the MacRobert Arts Centre, painting courtesy of the University of Stirling.

Very generously and promptly in 1966, the bulk of the £400,000 was gifted by the MacRobert Trust in memory of Lady MacRobert's three sons who were killed while in the service of the Royal Air Force 1938-1941, to which were added contributions from the Arts Council, Scottish Television and the British Film Institute. More about the three sons can be seen here, about the MacRobert Trust here, and about their father Sir Alexander MacRobert here.

The arts centre's design was conceived by architect Robert Matthew of Robert Matthew, Johnston-Marshall and Partners, who were the main architects for the university, and a re-development in 2002 added an extra Filmhouse, accommodating 135 people. The main Theatre continues to have films screened, in addition to live theatre.

The Main auditorium of the MacRobert Arts Centre, courtesy of MacRobert Arts Centre Ltd.

Above - The Main auditorium of the MacRobert Arts Centre, courtesy of MacRobert Arts Centre Ltd.

Scotland's first purpose-built multi arts complex opened on 27th September 1971 with Scottish Opera centre stage. Its opening years gave a taste of the high quality of productions now being created, in particular in opera, ballet and drama. In many ways the MacRobert became one of the production bases of Scottish Opera before it had the chance to buy the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.

An Architectural model of the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, displayed at the theatre's opening in 1971 - Courtesy Graeme Smith. The Stage reported in July 1971:- 'Picturesquely situated beside Airthrey Loch, commanding splendid views of the Ochil Hills, the central Theatre seats 500 in a single-tier fan-shaped raked auditorium. Adjacent are a studio Theatre accommodating up to 220 on adjustable seating and a recital room seating 80. Apart from dressing-rooms and generous workshop and scene-dock space, the Theatre possesses two large foyers, an art gallery, a bar, restaurant, coffee lounge and administrative offices. The architects are Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners and the Theatre consultant is John Wyckham.

Right - An Architectural model of the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, displayed at the theatre's opening in 1971 - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

The main Theatre is traditional in conception, with a permanent proscenium 32ft wide by 18ft 6in high and a forestage projecting in two sections out to 14ft, which can be lowered by means of electrically-powered lifts to form an orchestra pit large enough for 40 musicians. The fly tower, just under 50ft to the grid, is high enough to fly out full size cloths, with 29 counterweight lines and 9 hemp lines. The Theatre is equipped with Rank-Strand Electric's most recently developed lighting board, the Threeset 100, operated from a control room at the back of the auditorium. The control suite also houses a comprehensive sound console and film equipment which can show anything from 16mm to Cinema- Scope.

Backstage are dressing-rooms for up to 36 artists, a small green room, a wardrobe, prop room and sewing room. A service road provides direct and easy access to the workshop and scene dock. The Studio Theatre, octagonal in shape, has a lighting grid overall and its own control room. Public access is quite independent of the main auditorium. The seating on tiered rostra can be arranged to give a variety of performing areas. The Art Gallery is well furnished to house exhibitions of different kinds and has excellent lighting and hanging facilities. Both foyers have also been equipped with hanging and lighting tracks to display larger works of art.' - The Stage, July 1971.

A Modern photograph of the entrance to the MacRobert, courtesy Alan Buntings.

Above - A Modern photograph of the entrance to the MacRobert, courtesy Alan Buntings.

The art collections grew so large, thanks to Principal Cottrell's encouragement, that they are now housed in the adjoining Pathhead Building.

Scottish Opera hanselled the new Theatre in 1971 with a season of opera including their new production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress with the Scottish Baroque Ensemble conducted by Alexander Gibson, before the company took it on tour overseas. MacRobert was now firmly on their touring map nationally. In Spring 1972 STV recorded their Midsummer's Night's Dream, arranged by Benjamin Britten, at the MacRobert Centre before it was taken on tour to cities in Scotland and England and likewise more operas, of a shortened length, were televised in succeeding years including one world premiere.

Closely following Scottish Opera, the Scottish Theatre Ballet under Peter Darrell opened their first season in November 1971, of what would be many, with Giselle and a programme of shorter ballets. Scottish Ballet started frequent dance-workshops there as part of their nationwide First Steps programme annually. The first play performed, that same month, came from the Prospect Theatre Company with Timothy West in Love's Labour Lost. Lunchtime productions by them of other plays were also held in the Studio Theatre.

BBC TV was also involved at the MacRobert, including recording programmes in 1972 headed by Lena Martell in their six-part series Presenting Lena Martell; and in 1974 the four-part series 'On Stage' was recorded focussing, individually, on Jimmy Logan, Denny Willis, Moira Anderson and Jack Milroy.

Within a year of opening, the Centre formed its own, small, resident professional company - the Theatremakers - producing plays onstage for the community and for schools at their own locations, whilst also leading twice-weekly workshops for university students and school pupils. Soon appearing in the MacRobert were Theatre and dance companies from Britain and overseas; plus experimental Theatre, pantomime, revues, jazz, folk, ballad, mime and film. The first fully professional pantomime opened in December 1979 starring actor Russell Hunter and singer Helen McArthur in Babes in the Woods. In March 1980, launched under Ewan Hooper (and to followed by Tom Fleming), the new professional Scottish Theatre Company - a national Theatre without walls - made its opening debut at the MacRobert, and continued performing to acclaim at home and abroad over the next eight years. The centre's 500-seat Theatre also performed as a film Theatre, under the name of Stirling Film Theatre. The Art Gallery soon housed major works and hosted touring exhibitions. All open to the public.

In 1988 the university confirmed that the funding cuts, to all universities, would mean the closure, or part-closure of much of the MacRobert activities. To the rescue came the Arts Council who helped establish and fund a separate charitable-status management company to operate the centre's functions, with the buildings remaining in the ownership of the university. In July 1996 the MacRobert was the venue for the first public performance of the Scottish National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland.

Information of current event and facilities may be seen at the centre's website here, and here.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Tolbooth Arts Centre, Jail Wynd, Stirling

A Photograph of Stirling`s Tolbooth - Courtesy Richard Murphy Architects.

An early 18th century building, originally the town's court and jail, and earlier hosting a parliament in the reign of King James VI, it was conserved by Stirling Council, and fitted out as an arts event centre and Theatre in 2002 to the designs of Richard Murphy Architects.

Right - A Photograph of Stirling`s Tolbooth - Courtesy Richard Murphy Architects.

Accommodating around 200 people it hosts live music and the arts. Its programme of events can be seen here.

A Cut away perspective of the converted Tolbooth, Stirling - Courtesy Richard Murphy Architects. An illustrated tour, explanation and photographs of the adaptations and conversion work by Richard Murphy Architects upon the Category A-listed building can be seen here.

Left - A Cut away perspective of the converted Tolbooth, Stirling - Courtesy Richard Murphy Architects.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

The Palace Gardens, Stirling Castle Esplanade

A June 1914 advertisement for Al Fresco Entertainments in the Palace Grounds of Stirling Castle - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Vaudeville companies entertained al fresco from June to the end of August each year at the Palace Gardens, let out certainly from 1908 to 1914, with performances in the afternoons and evenings. The town Theatres closed for the summer and audiences, and tourists, moved to the Palace Gardens.

Right - A June 1914 advertisement for Al Fresco Entertainments in the Palace Grounds of Stirling Castle - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

John Harkes Craig, jewellery shop owner in the Arcade, was one of the lessees – his season being 1910 - followed the next year by Shaun Desmond, Mr Craig and others annually.

The above article was written for this site by Graeme Smith in January 2018.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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