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Future spotlight bright for Ayr theatre back in business

THE once-beleaguered Ayr Gaiety today celebrates its first birthday as a revived entity, having "defied its critics and doubters".

The curtain of the famous West Coast theatre came down in January 2009 after years of disastrous box office takings, claims of poor management and an inability to maintain the structure of the 110 year-old art deco-fronted building.

Now, however, the Gaiety claims to be running at a small profit. And the future for the theatre, which once presented talents such as Harry Lauder and Stanley Baxter to the seaside audiences, is said to be bright.

Executive director Jeremy Wyatt said: "We have defied the critics and the doubters by celebrating yet another historic milestone in the theatre's 112-year history. This is a day that many people believed would never happen."

When the Ayr Gaiety Partnership (AGP) charity was established to re-open the theatre, the business plan suggested the theatre could be self-funding.

But industry experts reckoned the Gaiety would need £350,000 a year in backing. Since that time a new financial pragmatism has emerged between AGP and South Ayrshire Council, resulting in SAC offering funding of £150,000 a year, which is expected to continue for the next two years. SAC and the Scottish Government have also backed the theatre's capital works programme with £1.5m and Creative Scotland are to support a £2.4m building programme with AGP raising half of that figure.

However, the real key to keeping the doors of the Gaiety open has been the introduction of an army of volunteer workers. The use of more than 100 volunteers has meant the theatre can keep it's cost base down.

"The local response has been fantastic," said Mr Wyatt. "There is a turnover of volunteers but people keep coming forward. The scheme offers many a chance to gain valuable work experience."

Mr Wyatt argued the Gaiety is preparing to stand alone, and now "showing a small profit." Since it's reopening, the theatre has sold 55,000 tickets, generating £800k in revenue, thanks to sell-out shows such as Still Game and the return of panto.

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