2019 sees the 60th Anniversary of The Guild of Players’ purchase of the Theatre Royal, a building they have called home since 1959.
To celebrate this anniversary, the 2019-20 Guild of Players season sees a return of old favourites, All My Sons, Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Blithe Spirit. A new Guild logo will be unveiled at a Civic Reception being held on 11th October, an event that will help us mark this occasion.
Formed in 1913, The Guild of Players have performed over 510 plays, and have performed across Dumfries, including the Mechanics Institute, the Little Theatre, Lyceum Theatre and Theatre Royal. If you add up the number of performances of each play, there have been well over 2000 performances adding up to over 4000 hours on stage.
The Guild began to look for a new home after the Little Theatre was earmarked for demolition in 1959, and after considering various alternatives, it was brought to The Guild’s attention that the owners of the Theatre Royal were looking for a buyer. The Council members took advantage of this opportunity and the Guild purchased the Theatre in April 1959 for £1,700. The Theatre was formally re-opened on October 1st, 1960 by Sir Compton McKenzie, author of Whisky Galore. Later that month the Guild staged their first production in their new home, J. M. Barrie’s What Every Woman Knows.
Over the last 60 years, the Guild have redeveloped the Theatre, adding new spaces, purchasing neighbouring buildings and widening the stage. Between 2011 and 2013, funding was secured from Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland, The Holywood Trust, The Robertson Trust, Historic Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council. Redevelopment work began in 2014.
The redevelopment was completed in late 2015, combining the features and atmosphere of the Theatre of JM Barrie and Robert Burns with a modern glass fronted atrium and updated facilities. The redevelopment is a fitting tribute to the tenacity and determination of the Guild, and to the generosity and commitment of its funders.
Councillor John Martin said: ‘I have enormous admiration and respect for the Guild of Players and their members past and present. Guild members put their free time, energy and enthusiasm into creating and performing productions, sharing them with the public, nurturing the next generations of theatre makers and creating and maintaining an excellent environment to showcase their work. The Guild has a brilliant history of achievement and I’m sure they have a great future ahead’.
Peter Nelson, Master of the Guild of Players added: “Further to a century of certainty in the 19th century, both the Guild of Players and the Theatre Royal lead a nomadic and chequered period of change in the early 20th century.
In 1959 these two parts of one whole finally were conjoined in the charismatic cultural union you see today. Since the early 1960s, the Theatre Royal has been a decisive and important part of the arts culture of Dumfries.
Further to the large scale and state of the art improvements in recent times the Theatre Royal has now cemented its place as a key part of Dumfries cultural activities and will continue to engage, encourage, enrich, inspire and enlighten all generations in Dumfries.”