New stage for theatre carpenters’ craft

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Two stalwarts of the Scottish theatre world are combining their creative talents in a new enterprise based in Peeblesshire.

Richard O’Connor and Gavin Smith met and became friends 15 years ago when both were employed as master carpenters at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre.

As a sideline, the pair started making furniture for themselves and family friends.

Now, what began as a hobby has become a full-time business with the launch of RG Workshops at Newlands Hall near West Linton.

Gavin, 37, who has designed and built sets for television and films as well as major events like the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, explained: “Working in the theatre and at special events can be challenging, but it taught us how to problem solve on a budget and be innovative when making things.

“Richard and I designed and built more than 80 sets at the Lyceum, including a six-metre-long suspended bridge and a flying staircase for Dale Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha.

“The downside of the job is you spend weeks, even months, making props and sets, but the minute the show is over they are all torn down.

“We both wanted to create things that last a lifetime: things that can become family heirlooms and astound people.”

From their spacious workshop in a former village hall, Richard and Gavin now offer a full design, build and install service, crafting everything from dining tables to full kitchens and office furniture for private and corporate clients.

RG Workshops recently completed its first major commission – a bespoke main staircase at a renovated water mill in Innerleithen – which combined the pair’s carpentry and welding skills and their capacity to take on ambitious projects.

In addition, the firm provides a supply-and-cut service for local joiners and DIY enthusiasts, and a range of evening and weekend educational courses – in wood turning, metalcraft and welding – aimed at keeping traditional skills alive.

Richard, 42, acknowledges the assistance and advice he and Gavin have received from Business Gateway Scottish Borders.

“As a result, we were able to secure funding which allowed us to buy equipment and start up six months ahead of schedule,” said Richard.

“Setting up on our own has been a steep learning curve but, thanks to Business Gateway, it has been ultimately rewarding.”

For more information on RG Workshops, visit www.rgworkshops.com or www.facebook.com/rgworkshops

For more information on how Business Gateway Scottish Borders can help you start and grow your business, visit www.bgateway.com/scottishborders or call 01835 818315.