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May 19th 1981

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The Pitlochry Theatre

It was in 1951 that John Stewart at last realised his dream of a ‘theatre in the hills’. Many thought that the dream was unrealistic and that his tent theatre at Pitlochry would last no more than a year or two. But they were wrong and in spite of the difficulties, mainly problems of parking and the noise suffered within the auditorium in heavy rain, the project prospered and both John Stewart and his deputy, Dr Kenneth Ireland knew that they had created something that fulfilled a genuine need.

They started to plan for something even more ambitious, a large permanent theatre overlooking the Tummel. Sadly John Stewart died but under the guidance and dedication of Kenneth Ireland planning continued. In 1978 a grant of £475,000 was obtained from the European Regional Development Fund and support was promised from the Scottish Arts Council, the Scottish Tourist Board, Tayside Region and Perth and Kinross District Council. In addition the general public raised more than £500,000.

A site was obtained at Port na Craig on the other side of the Tummel and designs were produced by Law and Dunbar-Naismith of Edinburgh. The site was magnificent, the design was imaginative and there was ample parking space. The bar and restaurant looked out through the glass wall of the theatre to the river. The foyer was designed to commemorate the origins of the theatre with two ‘tent pillars’ and a streamlined ‘tented’ ceiling. The total cost was over two million pounds.

The theatre was officially opened on July 9th 1981 by Prince Charles and the event is commemorated by a brass plaque in the foyer. However, as so often happens in such cases, the theatre had been running at this time for nearly two months. The actual opening was on May 19th which coincided with both the opening of the Pitlochry by-pass and that of Pitlochry Tourist Association’s new information centre.

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