King's Theatre

Kirkcaldy’s main cinema until its closure in 2000. Currently being restored to create Fife’s largest performing arts venue.

Dilapidated auditorium of King's Kirkcaldy.
Address
252-262 High Street, Kirkcaldy, Fife, KY1 1LA
Risk Rating
5 (Community Value: 3, Star Rating: 1, Risk Factor: 1)
Local Authority
Fife Council
Architect
J D Swanston & William Williamson
Date of Construction
1904
Listing
Category B (façade only)
Capacity
Estimated at 2,000

Significance

Originally opened as the King’s Theatre in 1904, the building at the High Street’s east end later became a cinema, remaining Kirkcaldy’s main picture house until its closure in 2000. The façade of the original 1904 building still survives. The interior was once similar to the architect’s magnificent King's Theatre in Edinburgh, but was gutted in 1937 to be rebuilt in streamlined cinema mode, later converted to three screens. However, some of the original decorative plasterwork to the ceiling and the theatre wall decoration has been preserved behind later alterations.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2016.

After closing as a cinema in 2000 the building was sold to the Commercial Pub Company and planning permission was granted for the conversion to a pub and performance venue. However, listed building consent for internal and external decorations was later withdrawn. The building was sold again in 2005 but the building remained empty, suffering from a lack of maintenance. The building was bought by Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited in August 2016. The organisation has since made the building weathertight and cleared debris from inside with the support of local volunteers. This has allowed the theatre to be opened to the public for building tours and pop-up events.

Progress is positive but there is still a long way to go before the future of the building is secured. The group still seeks funding to realise its ambition to restore and fully reopen the building as a performing arts venue. Until such time as this is secured it is deemed prudent to retain the building on the register.  

Theatre potential

There is much local interest in restoring the building for community use and Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited plans to restore the building to create Fife’s largest performing arts venue. It plans to return the three former cinema screens to one large auditorium to host an audience of between 1,750 and 2,000.

The project is part of a wider ambition that includes the former YWCA at the rear of the building, which has also been bought by the Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited. The YWCA has been adapted to form a live event space and a 50-seat café and restaurant to help subsidise the works to the theatre. Fife College is partnering for this aspect of the work. The building also features space for a recording studio, offices, training and community use, as well as a flexible 500-seat multi-use theatre hall.

Current situation

The project gathered great momentum and energy under the strong leadership of the Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited, and was successful in its early fundraising, making substantial progress in a very limited period of time. Theatres Trust supported the group through its workshop programme and by providing advice on aspects of building work.

In September 2019 the Kings’ team launched the Kings Live Lounge in the former YWCA building, showing a mixed programme of music, comedy and cabaret, running alongside events for community groups. This marked a milestone for the group, helping to promote its work and fund the renovation of the theatre. The team also won the Provost’s Award at the Kingdom FM Local Hero Awards, run by the local Fife radio station, for their work to restore the Kings.  

The ambition had been to reopen the main theatre by 2022 and progress had been positive. However, the pandemic has set back the work, with the building and Live Lounge closed for much of 2020.

In February 2021, Kings Theatre received £87,000 from Historic Environment Scotland for emergency roofing repairs to make the building watertight.

Theatres Trust will continue to support the Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited in its ambition to restore and reopen the main theatre as a large-scale performance space for the people of Kirkcaldy and as a project to help transform the town centre. Together with the repurposing of the adjacent YWCA, the buildings provide an opportunity to deliver a thriving entertainment hub for both the local and wider area.  

Update May 2021

King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited was one of the recipients of support from our Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, receiving £7,000 to commission a community feasibility study for the theatre. This will provide a comprehensive understanding of the audience and market demand based on detailed market analysis and feedback from the local community. Read the news story about the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme.

Update July 2021

Fife Council has awarded Placed Based Investment Programme funding to the King's group to redevelop the YWCA as a creative arts space with café / bar. This follows major investment by the council into Kirkcaldy’s Waterfront, aimed at reconnecting the waterfront and the High Street and encouraging visitors.

The group also secured funding through Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s ‘Adapt & Thrive’ scheme to allow them to open an outdoor bistro and outdoor performance space, turning the area into a focal point on the esplanade.

Further emergency funding has allowed the group to commission architects to undertake an appraisal of both the condition and the opportunities of the King’s on the High Street, the YWCA on the Esplanade and the Ballroom in between.

Campaign video (from 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ofQWGUMkZ0

Main image King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy, David Clark