THE BRUNTON TURNS 50

Musselburgh’s Brunton Hall, home to the Brunton Theatre, is celebrating its Golden Anniversary this month. The well-known events venue was officially opened on 23 June 1971 by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. 

Mr John D Brunton, son of the Brunton wireworks founder, died in 1951 and left a bequest of £700,000 to the people of Musselburgh, specifically stating that the money must be used to provide halls for the use of the community. The Town Council also added money of their own so that they could group their administrative offices within the building.

When it opened in 1971 the Brunton contained Burgh Police Court, Town Council Chamber, Town Council Committee Rooms, Members’ Lounge and offices for officials and staff as well as the Theatre, large Main Hall and Supper Room. It has been through extensive renovations in years since, most recently in 2011-12 to create a spacious venue suitable for a wide variety of functions.

East Lothian Provost Councillor John McMillan said: “The Brunton Hall is a well kent building in Musselburgh hosting an invaluable community hub providing a range of services for local residents who are able to pop in for housing, welfare or social work advice and support, share concerns with elected members at regular councillor and MSP surgeries or book rooms for community meetings or social events. The Bistro is always alive with the sound of happy chatter and supports many events with its friendly and professional service.

“Alongside all of this, The Brunton has made a significant contribution to arts and culture not just in East Lothian but across Scotland. To have this wonderful venue within our midst is very special and it is right that we reflect on its history and achievements. While it’s sad that we are unable to mark this occasion as we might usually have done, I know that the Trustees, the Friends of the Brunton, our own teams and all who are connected with the Brunton will be wishing it well for its next 50 years.”

As the biggest standalone multi-purpose venue in the area outside of Edinburgh city centre, the Brunton’s halls and Theatre have hosted some of the biggest names in the world of music and entertainment such as Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Barbara Dickson and James McAvoy. Scottish Opera, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and National Theatre of Scotland have performed on numerous occasions, BBC’s Question Time has broadcast from the venue and the annual Pantomime is a regular fixture delighting families and cast members alike. Many names return to the Theatre each year bringing new shows and events to the county – including as part of the Edinburgh Festival programme.

Alongside this, the Brunton it is a much-loved community venue providing space for weddings and community celebrations. Youth theatre, drama and music groups use the space to inspire the next generation of artists, and the building is at the centre of the Honest Toun’s Festival programme. More recently the Theatre has been able to restart its film programme having postponed all performances since the start of March 2020. The Brunton also continues to house East Lothian Council teams as the main area office in the town.

Michael Stitt, Chair of Brunton Theatre Trust said:

“In 1994 the Brunton Theatre Trust was established to manage the theatre, the professional performing arts and entertainment programme and the hire of its facilities to support local community groups. This has brought a wealth of participatory arts projects as well as high quality performances and screenings, for the enjoyment and enrichment of the people of Musselburgh, East Lothian and beyond.

“Mr Brunton’s vision to have this provision within Musselburgh, has led, fifty years later, to a much loved theatre rooted in the local community, while renowned across Scotland for its excellent programme and contribution to the cultural landscape of the country and the wellbeing of the people it serves.”

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