Melrose Wynd Theatre set to face its final curtain call

Felix Sear converted the former bedding warehouse into a theatre in 1995 but sold the building in 2006.
Felix Sear converted the former bedding warehouse into a theatre in 1995 but sold the building in 2006.

The curtain is set to come down on the Wynd Theatre in Melrose next week, when plans to covert it into a studio and gallery will be heard.

Proposals to change the use of the 82-seater venue, which opened in 1995, into an artist’s studio and gallery will be determined by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee on Monday.

Senior planning officer Carlos Clarke is recommending that the bid – from St Boswells artist Kerr Rodgie who has agreed to buy the property – is approved. But the nine-strong committee will also consider 12 objections to the proposal.

The dissenters believe the loss of the theatre will seriously impact on the town’s amenity with one claiming that, since it closed its doors last year, there had been an “unbridgeable gap in the social, community and creative wellbeing of Melrose”.

Mr Clarke’s report acknowledges the interest of the recently-formed Melrose & District Community Arts Trust which wants to develop the Wynd into a community arts hub. “While it would be ideal to provide a local group with time to be able to purchase the property, there is no definitive timescale for doing so,” explains Mr Clarke.

“In the meantime, the property has been on the open market for over a year and the proposal [from Mr Rodgie] represents the first serious offer made to purchase the premises.

“Though the loss of the existing theatre use is to be regretted, it is not an historic theatre and there is no firm evidence that its reinstatement is likely in the foreseeable future. The proposed use would comprise a cultural attraction that would contribute positively to the town centre by occupying a property that has been vacant for over a year.

“A decision to refuse permission would provide no guarantee that the theatre use would be reinstated and may result in the building remaining empty, so detracting from the vitality of the town centre.”

The former bedding warehouse in the vennel between High Street and Buccleuch Street was converted into a theatre in 1995 by its owner Felix Sear and staged its first production – Nicola McCartney’s controversial date rape play Easy – in December of that year.

Over the next decade, the Wynd hosted over 1,000 drama, musical, dance and comedy performances. Mr Sear sold the theatre in 2006 and it has been on the open market since June last year for £99,500.