Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Full houses as panto returns to arts centre
Oh yes it is – pantomime is back at Airdrie Arts Centre as the historic venue hosts its first stage performance in nearly a decade.
Imagine That performing arts school, who moved into the Anderson Street space a year ago, have sold out of tickets for their eight festive performances of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, beginning tomorrow night.
The B-listed town centre building had previously lain empty for nine years after being sold by North Lanarkshire Council following community organisations’ move to the nearby town hall following a major refurbishment completed in 2012.
Performing arts group founder and artistic director Kieran Mcmath said: “It feels like a great privilege to be bringing the arts back to the arts centre with our pantomime, after a nine-year hiatus.
“We’re excited to be transforming our studio into a small 50-seater theatre for the month, and our bespoke scenery, designed and built to fit the space, brings the show to life.
“It’s completely sold out and we’ve had to add extra performances to try and keep up with demand.
“Rehearsals have been going really well and the students have really taken to the task of mounting such a challenging show in our studio space.”
Imagine That’s panto is being performed by 21 of the school’s talented acting students, aged between eight and 17, with seven staff and volunteers plus senior students working hard behind the scenes and on the show’s technical elements.
The curtain goes up tomorrow, December 9, and runs until the grand finale on December 18, with Kieran adding: “It’s a fantastic end to what has been a very busy year.”
He set up Imagine That seven years ago, with classes originally taking place at Cairnlea Church before moving online throughout the coronavirus lockdown.
The group produced seven virtual productions in that time and was rewarded with the title of performing arts school of the year at the Scotland Prestige awards in May.
Imagine That has continued going from strength to strength since moving into the arts centre last November, where they lease half of the ground floor which they have converted into a studio and rehearsal space.
Now they have grown to welcome more than 110 young people to an expanded range of 11 music and drama sessions each week – and as well as their Christmas panto, are currently rehearsing for next year’s productions of Honk Jr the musical, Spyrates and Grease.
Kieran is already looking even further ahead, saying: “Our 2022 pantomime production will be Aladdin, and we’re off on a trip to London in summer 2023.
“Our students love the new studio and really feel at home – some of our students spend more evenings at the studio than they do at home!
“Last month 96 of our students performed in our fundraising concert All Together Now, a global celebration of theatre where we joined over 2500 theatres in more than 40 countries performing an exclusive musical revue.”
The arts centre building dates back to 1893 and was originally Airdrie’s public library, purposebuilt with funds provided by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
After the library moved into its current Wellwynd home nearly a century ago, it was later converted in 1967 into an arts centre including a 168-seat theatre and a range of popular community spaces.
Kieran said as the group opened their doors in the venue: “We’re excited that this gorgeous building is going to be used for the arts again – so many people have great memories and stories from the arts centre.”