Falkirk needs a new theatre to attract top acts

The Roxy Theatre in Silver Row, Falkirk,  shortly before the street was demolished in the early 1960s
The Roxy Theatre in Silver Row, Falkirk, shortly before the street was demolished in the early 1960s
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There are few Scottish entertainers with memories as long as Johnny Beattie. The 88-year-old from Govan began treading the boards as a comedian in the 1950s and only recently announced his retirement from River City, the BBC soap opera in which he was a star member of the cast.

I spoke to Johnny a few years ago for a story. He spoke warmly about Falkirk and its people, then asked if I knew of The Roxy, the local variety theatre that once stood in Silver Row - demolished in 1962 to make way for Callendar Square shopping centre.

The Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline'. Picture: Craig Brown

The Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline'. Picture: Craig Brown

Many older Bairns have happy memories of the theatre. But it seems it was not so well-loved by those on stage. It was, to quote Johnny, the sort of place where you wiped your feet on the way out.

Fast forward to 2015 and Falkirk still lacks a decent mid-sized venue. The Town Hall is well past its sell-by date and - let’s face it - struggles to attract big names outwith the fortnight-long Funny in Falkirk comedy festival.

If a planned redevelopment of the Municipal Buildings in West Bridge Street goes ahead in a few years’ time, the venue is likely to bite the dust.

Last week, it was reported that the council is considering teaming up with Forth Valley College to build a new 400-seat theatre at a redeveloped Middlefield campus.

What a disappointing lack of ambition that represents. 400 seats is miniscule. You can forget ever attracting the likes of Kevin Bridges back to the town with a venue of that size.

Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre is a shining example of a venue outside Glasgow and Edinburgh which still regularly books big names.

Falkirk deserves a venue of similar prestige.