Glasgow gives 'milestone' funding to Citizens Theatre

Citizens theatre building
The project began in 2018 was projected to cost £20m [BBC]

Glasgow City Council has pledged £2m for the development of the Citizens Theatre following years of delays and rising costs.

The theatre says the funding was an "important milestone" for the project which has been hit by the pandemic, inflation and complications with the build.

The initial project in 2018 was projected to cost £20m, which has since increased to £30m.

City councillors were told the project was at risk without funding and agreed unanimously to provide funding through the Common Good Fund.

Interior of the Citizens Theatre showing all levels with scaffolding up around the building and seating and orchestra pit ripped out to be replaced
The project was delayed due to the pandemic and complications at the site [BBC]

Dominic Hill, director of the Citizens Theatre, said: “The pandemic, and everything that has happened in the world since has had a huge effect on progress.

“But it’s also an incredibly complicated project, knitting together an old building and a brand new one.

That has thrown up many surprises for the design and production team which have slowed us down.”

Executive Director Alex McGowan, added: “It’s a tough environment for public funding, not just in Glasgow but across the UK right now, so it’s tremendous that the city values the citizens theatre.

"We also need to make additional funding commitments to make sure we can get the project finished by the end of this year.”

The original project in 2018 was due to take two years and cost just under £20m .

The theatre hopes building work will be completed in December, with a six month fit out beginning in January.

Reopening activities would begin in summer 2025, with the first season in the autumn.

Thin banner showing a small round photo on the left side of Pauline McLean - a smiling woman with blonde hair - and writing on the right side of the photo reading Analysis by Pauline McLean Arts correspondent, BBC Scotland

Writer James Bridie had a vision for a venue which would offer theatre to the citizens of Glasgow. The Citizens Theatre which emerged from the Victorian Royal Princess Theatre in 1945 took up the challenge with gusto, and cemented it in the 1970s with a 50 pence ticket offer which was painted in huge letters on the side of their building.

They became a totemic presence in an area once maligned for deprivation and gang violence. Alan Rickman, Glenda Jackson, Rupert Everett and Pierce Brosnan were among the many actors who appeared there.

But the Citz is one of the few buildings left standing in an area which has been transformed and without the pledge from Glasgow City Council, its future may not have been so certain.

Like all capital projects, it’s had to cope with the perfect storm of the pandemic, inflation and rising construction costs.

There’s a symmetry to the pledge from the council’s Common Good Fund. The Citizens’ building is owned by Glasgow City Council and leased back to the theatre company. It’s one of a number of assets included in the Glasgow fund.

The council’s contribution will allow them to preserve the historic auditorium and its Victorian stage equipment, the oldest surviving in the UK, and wrap it in a brand-new building.

The landscape has changed since the curtain came down in 2018, but the hope is that this old theatre in new clothes will still appeal to the citizens of the Gorbals, Glasgow, and the whole of Scotland.