Fit for a King …
We are helping to profile businesses, organisations, community groups and projects via our Blog – and we took time out this week to meet up with Stephen Barbour (Events and Community Engagement Manager) and Grant Foster (Head of Venue and Development) at the Kings Live Lounge to discover just what’s brewing on the Waterfront …
Three years ago, Stephen Barbour took on a roll to help restore the Kings Theatre. It has been a roller-coaster of a ride. Eyes are very much fixed on the end goal … but over the last three years, Stephen explains how the twists and turns have led them to opening The Kings Live Lounge: “The Theatre is a huge project. It will take many millions to make it happen – and we are conscious that, to win the support of funding bodies and investors, we have to demonstrate our ability to deliver – one step at a time.”
Stephen adds: “There are three stages to the big plan – and The Kings Live Lounge is the first.”
I met with Stephen – and Grant Foster who works with him on the project – at the Lounge on the Waterfront. They are in Kirkcaldy’s old YMCA building. Those with long enough memories may recall the Y making the news back in 1980 when adults and children were stranded in the property during a winter storm – captured by Fife Free Press in this great image and linked article …
Over recent months, Stephen and Grant have worked with a small army of passionate supporters – many of whom have given of their time, skills, money and more to help get the property to a state where it can open to the public and become the first income-generating element of the Kings project. And they’ve succeeded!
Sitting in the foyer, the two explain their excitement, relief and sheer delight when their first client walked in to hire RoomOne! Stephen says: “That was a real moment – the moment we realised we have an asset that can start to make money, to provide a service in the town – and to help shape our bigger plans.”
Stephen gave me a tour of the property. Inside, The Kings Live Lounge is now a state of the art 110-capacity live venue … complete with bar, lounge and community hire spaces.
We are aware of the negative comments made by some – especially online – regarding plans to make improvements in the town. Stephen laughs, explaining: “Only the other day I was asked by someone whether I was still ‘wasting my time on that theatre project’. I told them I was far from wasting my time – and was able to show them photos of what we’ve created. That completely changed their view.”
And rightly so. Stephen is aware that they need to get people into the venue to see just how it has changed – and will continue to develop. “The front is still a work in progress, but – one step at a time! We have ensured that the venue provides a unique space and we’re looking forward to welcoming our first guests soon.” And they are already looking at bookings for events, groups and activities through until next summer.
As we walk around the building, he points out stages of the plan – that’s next, then that – all in a roll-out programme that relies on their own performance and success.
Upstairs – overlooking the waterfront – are a series of rooms, some of which (for now) will be used for storage with the hope that they’ll be able to provide a green room for performing artists. They have separate access to the venue’s stage including easy drive-in access for vehicles to be able to drop off kit and any equipment.
The views over the back show the old Ballroom – now a complete wreck. “That’s stage 2” Stephen says and he walks me back downstairs and into the yard (below) that joins the two venues.
Skips of rubble were removed by their volunteer supporters to allow them access to the site – rubble and rubbish that had been amassed over almost two decades or dereliction. The plans are to demolish the old ballroom and create a new three-story building that will provide a 750-capacity venue for events – including a roof terrace that will have pride of place overlooking the water.
But that is more steps down the road …
For now, the focus is on the Live Lounge – to make folk aware of their facilities. The 110-capacity venue can be reconfigured to accommodate 70 in a banquet style set up – or 140 standing. They have their green room – and have already had enquiries from groups for use. They also have RoomOne – capable of taking 60 seated. It is also being used for yoga, tai chi, children’s drama classes, workshops for vocal coaching and more.
That was then …
For a century, the Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy served the town and Fife. Between its opening in 1904 and its closure – spending its final years as the ABC cinema – is brought crowds from far and wide. Thousands of people walked through its doors during its lifetime. The Board of King???s Theatre Kirkcaldy is passionate about the regeneration of not only the theatre complex but also the wider high street and town centre. The Live Lounge is the first step on that journey – to revitalise Kirkcaldy’s arts scene and to create a thriving entertainment hub.
The King may have lost its crown when the doors closed, but Stephen, Grant and the Kings’ army are working hard to win it back.
A special note of thanks …
Stephen and Grant would like to make a special mention – some of the companies who have gone the extra mile in helping to support their work. They know they can’t mention everyone – and there are numerous individuals who deserve to have their name in lights – but the following companies have helped enormously in getting the project to where it is today …
… and a big thank you also goes to Alexander Henderson for the photographs (above): he is a volunteer team member and in house photographer.????
Pop in to see them at The Live Lounge – they are at 9 The Esplanade (KY1 1HR ).
They are open 9am – 9pm. You can call them on 01592 564481.
Thanks for reading.