Theatres in Ayrshire ~ 1800 - 2014

Ayr Pavilion

Situated at the north-west corner of Low Green Ayr. The initial proposals were for a pavilion and public baths but the Council subsequently decided to proceed with the pavilion only. Plans passed by Dean of Guild Court in 1910 were for a hall, fitted with galleries, seating 1,200 and promenade accommodation for 1300 more with refreshment and retiring rooms.

Ayr Pavilion was built in 1911, to designs by James Kennedy Hunter, the unusual structure remains as a dominant feature of the seaside town.  The building cost Ayr Burgh Council £8000.  Some sources indicate that the theatre had seating for 1500 and 900 standing places.  Promenades encircled the long narrow auditorium at both ground floor and balcony levels.

Ben Popplewell took over the lease in 1913 and over the next twenty years many of the key vaudeville acts visited the Pavilion.  Comedian Will Fyffe appeared on nine different occasions.  Florrie Ford, Walford Bodie and Fred Karnos' Gangs were other regular visitors.  During this period the theatre gained a reputation as the "house that rocks with laughter".  For four seasons, starting in 1926, Charlie Kemble's Entertainers were the summer residents.  From the mid-30's the Gaiety became the main variety house and the Pavilion was converted to dance hall.

Ayr Pavilion has had a varied history, serving as a theatre, roller skating rink, dance hall, night club and rock music venue.  For much of the post war era the Pavilion operated as dance hall and concert venue, attracting some of the key jazz groups.  After 1956, a number of internationally known groups played the Pavilion, including Mick Mulligan's Band with George Melly, Sid Phillips and his Orchestra and Nat Gonella with his Georgians.  Other seminal figures from the British Jazz scene included Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and Humphrey Lyttelton. 

The Popplewell family relinquished their lease in 1967.  THe premises continued as a dance hall and attracted concert performances by some of the rock bands of the 1970's and 1980.  Elvis Costello was was of the performers visiting during this period.

In 1974 the stage area, including the scenery grid, was restored by the technical crew of Ayr Intimate Opera.  The balcony area was refurbished with fixed seating recovered from another local venue.  Between 1974 and 1983 the Pavilion was home to the annual productions by Ayr Intimate Opera and hosted some of the Ayr Concert Series including performances by The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and guitarist Julian Byzantine.  Ayr Choral Union also used the hall during the 1980's.  However, the venue probably made a greater impact on the younger community as the home of the Powerhouse Disco operated by local broadcaster and DJ, Tom Jones.

Following public concern regarding the operation of the night club, the building fell into disrepair.  Recently, there has been some restoration to accommodate "Pirate Pete's, a children's adventure centre.




Building Details

The building is listed as Grade B.

Simple harled red sandstone hall with tall elegant Italianate towers at each corner and set amid promenade gardens. A long, narrow auditorium with about 600 seats. Flat main floor and one horse-shoe balcony. Plain barrel vault ceiling. Indeed, the only decoration in the entire hall is a scroll with acanthus leaves over the proscenium. Showing wear due to nightclub use.

A winter garden, overlooking the Low Green, was dismantled around 1975.History

1911    Theatre.  Until 1933.
1930    Alteration: converted to dance hall.  (Unknown - Architect)   Dual use with summer concert party until 1933
1956    Jazz and rock venue.  Powerhouse disco.  'Grab a Granny' Dance Nights.
1974    Restoration of abandoned stage areas and refurbishment of balcony areas by Ayr Intimate Opera.
1990    Venue used for "Hangar 13" raves but fell into disuse after 3 deaths attributed to drug misuse.
2003     Revived as Pirate Pete's.  Stage and related facilities removed.


Owners/managers

1911 Owner/Management: Ayr Town Council
1913 Owner/Management: Ben Popplewell, lessee
1918 Owner/Management: Fred Collins Circuit, lessee
1922 Owner/Management: Ben Popplewell, lessee
1930 Owner/Management: various lessees
1967 Owner/Management: Donny McIntyre
 


Stage type
Proscenium, slightly raked   Proscenium width: 9.14m  Height to grid: 12.2m
Seating Capacity: Original: c.600

The stage is in two sections.  The upstage area has a full fly tower but limited wing space.  The downstage area, in front of the original proscenium arch is limited in vertical extent and lacks flying facilities.   The stage is of sufficient size to accommodate full touring sets but lighting and other technical facilities were minimal.  In 1982 the Ayr Intimate Opera presented Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, using the sets designed by Maria Bjornson for Peter Ebert's 1978 Scottish Opera production.

Building information from The Theatres Trust©

Other Links ~  Ayr Intimate Opera  ~  National Youth Orchestra of Scotland  ~  Ayr Concert Series  ~ Go to Event Programme Database


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Pirate pete
Ayr Pavilion on the Low Green, now appearing as Pirate Pete's
magnify   ©M.Bailey
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Pavilion2
Ayr Pavilion and the Low Green, from the esplanade.
magnify    ©M.Bailey
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Carmen
Carmen, Ayr Intimate Opera at the Pavilion
magnify   ©Ken Ferguson
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Tales of Hoffmann, Ayr Intimate Opera at the Pavilion.   magnify   ©Ken Ferguson
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Fly Tower
Ayr Pavilion from the Low Green, showing the fly tower and outdoor play area.  magnify  ©M.Bailey



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