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New Gregory's Girl school will be home for £4m theatre

A new £4million theatre is to be built within the campus replacing the school made famous by the film Gregory's Girl.

COMMENDED: Quality work by the theatre, such as this play Butterfly Kiss, featuring Dave Anderson and Katie Barnett, have earned plaudits. Picture: Leslie Black
COMMENDED: Quality work by the theatre, such as this play Butterfly Kiss, featuring Dave Anderson and Katie Barnett, have earned plaudits. Picture: Leslie Black

Cumbernauld Theatre, one of the country's quirkiest venues, is facing demolition. A 400-seater facility will be erected on the new campus that is replacing Abronhill High, the school immortalised in Bill Forsyth's 1981 film and which was closed last year.

North Lanarkshire Council has given the go-ahead for the new performance venue. It will be within the proposed Cumbernauld Academy, about a mile from the theatre's current home.

The current building, the council says, is in need of a multi-million pound refit, while building it at the new school will present a saving to the public purse.

But some people have voiced concerns that the move will spell the end of one of the few buildings in the town with any sense of history, having been bolted on to an old farmhouse and cowsheds.

It also casts doubt over the future of the popular public house within the facility, as this will not be part of any new theatre.

Hugh O'Donnell, former local MSP who also previously worked at the theatre, said: "For my generation and through to now the theatre is the cultural heart of Cumbernauld.

"There is no community facility in the area that has that atmosphere. It is a fabulous building and while it is in the wrong location and lacks the sophistication of a city centre venue, the reality is the council is losing a fantastic cultural and community asset if it does not preserve some of it."

Alan O'Brien, of the Cumbernauld Independent Councillors Alliance, added: "Yet again we have missed an opportunity to breathe life into the town centre, which needs the patronage. Instead, we are directing people to a school campus."

The theatre group was started in 1960 by some of the first residents of the new town. The main theatre was built in 1972.

A nationally respected major arts services provider within Scottish theatre, its reputation for achievement and quality was recently recognised by Creative Scotland and put on the same footing as national level theatres, such as the Citizens, Glasgow, and the Traverse, Edinburgh.

More than 20,000 people attend events each year, while up to 250 young people attend drama and dance classes each week, and around 100 adults partake in drama, writers and music groups.

However, redevelopment plans have been constrained by its location on a steep slope, the difficulty for large vehicles, including audience coaches to access the theatre, EU guidelines on disability access and asbestos in the roof space.

The council said proposals for a town centre site were abandoned largely on funding grounds.

The move has the support of the Cumbernauld Theatre Trust, which runs the facility.

Councillor Jim Logue, who heads the council's learning and leisure services, said: "By sharing the site with the new Cumbernauld Academy, costs will be lower as factors such as ground works, car parking, plant rooms and heating systems do not need to be duplicated."

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