Harbour Theatre - mainly for former members

How We Started

This is a selection of archive photos of HAC, to show how far we've come in about 40 years. To see more photos, visit http://www.irvineayrshire.org/hac/photos.htm   If you want a closer look at the pics, right click on them, select 'save picture as . .', copy them to an appropriate file, and open them in your computer's photo viewer. If you don't have a photo viewer, download Picasa from the Google website. It's totally free and is user-friendly. It's the one I use for all my photos. OR you can zoom in on the page by clicking on the "100%" button bottom right of this frame. Some of the pictures may take a moment or two to appear. Please be patient!


These are some of the earliest pictures of the Harbour Arts Centre, probably taken in the late 60's. This is what we started with. We rented the building from landlords Irvine Town Council, who begat Irvine Development Corporation, who begat Cunninghame District Council, who begat North Ayrshire Council. That’s a lot of begatting. The rent was never very much. £5 a year springs to mind, although some might say that it was about £4.90 more than it should have been. Here, the place is looking more or less like itself, so former members shouldn’t have much trouble recognising it. Its origins as a Mission Hall are fairly obvious.

Avril Gilmore was the first Exhibitions Convener in 1966, and in an email to me, revealed a family connection to the building. "Actually, I probably have the longest connection of anyone with the building itself, as, when it was a seaman's mission, my grandfather was appointed missionary for a while, and my father was born in the little but an' ben which was alongside the reading room, immediately behind the hall, and which became the main exhibition area and bar. My father was one of a family of eleven children - amazing how they all fitted into the tiny four roomed cottage . . . . . So it was doubly exciting for me when I took part in all the labouring and work that turned it into an Arts Centre in 1966."

PictureAt some point in the past, old railway wagons had been bolted together to form storage huts at the rear. This view is from the Magnum car park. The Marina Inn is on the right. By the time we took over, the wagons were no longer weathertight, if indeed they ever were. I remember them as damp and smelly. Access was gained via a doorway in the gallery. At the1973 rebuild, that doorway became the entrance to the toilets corridor, next to the box office window.

This view is approx from the bottom of the Magnum ramp, next to The Ship. The small lean-to was the only gents toilet, accessed only from the theatre! If somebody used it just before a show started, we had to wait for the cistern to finish filling up before we could start! In 1973 it was demolished and this area became part of the backstage corridor and prop store. Note the chimney stack. If any of you saw my pictures of the 2005 rebuilding you may remember one with the exposed fireplace in the back wall of the stage.

 A very rare picture of the inside of the first HAC, probably taken around 1971 or 72. This was the gallery (still is!) looking towards the theatre. False walls were put up to hang the pictures on. Here it appears to be the Camera Club's exhibition.The lighting controls were behind the narrow false wall to the right of the doorway with only a small hole in the wall to peer through! For the technically-minded, they were two Strand Junior 8’s, which until the most recent rebuilding, were gently rusting in the theatre attic. (If you REALLY want to see a picture of one, go to http://www.strandarchive.co.uk/control/directoperated/%20sliderdimmers.%20html#j8This doorway was also the only other way onto the stage, without going outside and coming in the fire exit, which did happen a few times! Post 1974, the door leading to the office and backstage was on the left behind behind the white board with the photographs, as the stage was rotated 180 degrees.

This is taken in about 1972 from the doorway in the previous picture. The stage is on the right. The mural on the wall was, I believe titled 'Neptune'. Don't know who the artist was. That wall of course became the back wall of the stage in 1974, when the acting and seating areas were swapped and Neptune was plastered over. In 2005, most of this wall was demolished and opened up to make one large entrance. The entrance to the gents toilet was through a door at the far end of the seating.

Oops, don’t know how this slipped in here! L-R is Richard Charnock-Smith, me, and Brian Hogan. Richard augmented our meagre technical facilities with a lot of his own stuff in the 70’s. His wife Ingrid acted and directed. Brian was an old school pal of mine, and fellow resident volunteer technician. We were fooling about for the benfit of the Camera Club.


This is the programme for the re-opening ceremony following the rebuilding of 1974. Before I rescued it, it had been pasted to the wall next to the coal bins for years, hence its condition. Notice we had a built-in break to regroup and eat before more drinks and the evening’s performance! Notice the reference to Strings & Own Things? This might have been one of the band's first perfomances.

The top table at the opening ceremony. L-R Walter Shields (Hon Pres), Brian Tutchener (Chairman), Ian Cuthbertson, Jim Foulds (Secy).
Ian Cuthbertson was a well-known Scottish actor, appearing in many TV dramas and films of the 60's, 70's and 80's. (Budgie, Sutherland's Law, Charles Endell Esq., Gorillas in the Mist.) Perhaps most famously, he played the part of the father in the film, 'The Railway Children'.

A glass being raised by Ian Cuthbertson, Fred Blower, HAC stalwart and later Treasurer, guest Jamieson Clark, Kilbirnie-born actor in DOZENS of British films and TV from the 40's to the 80's, and Brian Tutchener. 



 The first show in the ‘new’ HAC, on the evening of the opening day,  was a performance of ‘The Game’s a Bogey’ by Scottish theatre company 7:84. The cast included the now well-known Scots actors Bill Paterson and Alex Norton. Also in the cast was this young actor who, in the spirit of the 70’s, performed a streak across the stage during the opening speeches.

He’s still a working actor and director today, so maybe I’d better not mention his name, but I bet some of you know who he is. I'll just bet you do, wanna bet?



The 'New' Harbour Arts Centre, taken when rebuilding and landscaping of the area was complete in 1974. Gone are the damp smelly railway wagons and surrounding delapidated buildings. Around the same time, the Magnum and the Beach Park were being built, so the whole area underwent a huge transformation. Since then of course HAC has been rebuilt and extended yet again, and is now twice the size it is here.