Bringing Excellence in Live Arts to Linlithgow since 1969.

Linlithgow Arts Guild is one of the foremost Music Clubs in Scotland

How did this come about?

It is a worthwhile story. In the autumn of 1968 Linlithgow Town Council, against the background of an Art Exhibition put on by Richard Demarco, whose irrepressible enthusiasm for modern art and for persuading the unconvinced to appreciate it, was infectious, was enlightened enough to organise a fortnight of culture in the town. Mrs Julia Wade, then a member of the Council, was designated to bring this about.

Distinguished exponents of the arts were invited and duly came to give talks and lead discussions and seminars. Robert Ponsonby, the then Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, was the music expert. Allen Wright, and Conrad Wilson, the Drama Critic and the Music Critic respectively of The Scotsman also came to Linlithgow. And so it came to be that at one of the many "chummy chats" Robert Ponsonby said to Mrs Wade: "Why don't you start an Arts Guild in Linlithgow?" And continued "Well, you could invite the Scottish National Orchestra to give a concert here". Seeing her surprise, he went on: "You could have half of it here and the other half could go to some place like Dornoch." And that is exactly what happened. (Needless to say, these six words give little hint of the feverish activity that followed).

 

On Wednesday 2nd April 1969 half of the Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Alan Suttie, gave a concert to an audience of about five hundred in the new Linlithgow Academy Hall. Items included in the programme were Mendelssohn's Overture Fingal's Cave, Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, The Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss and Rossini's The Silken Ladder. A very young Patricia Hay delighted the audience with the aria Voi che sapete from Mozart's Opera The Marriage of Figaro as well as some Scots songs.

 

Inspired by this success a public meeting was held at which it was agreed to found an Arts Guild in Linlithgow.. At this meeting Baillie David Cook became Chairman, Bob Sagar Hon. Treasurer and Mrs Wade was appointed Hon. Secretary (in fact, chief executive!) a position which she filled for 12 years. Julia was then Chairman for 3 years. She is now Hon. President. By this time contact had been made with the Scottish Arts Council who would help with programming and financing.

The programme for the first season 1969-1970 consisted of six events All performances took place in the New Academy Hall

  1. Theatre Roundabout in Vanity Fair the husband and wife team Wm. Fry and Sylvia Read bringing the well-known novel to life;
  2. Opera for All in Don Pasquale by Donizetti;
  3. Talk by Conrad Wilson;
  4. Recital by Wight Henderson piano and Clifford Hughes tenor.;
  5. Recital and talk by Carl Dolmetsch of the famous recorder family with Joseph Saxby
  6. A Return visit of half of the SNO.

We learn from the syllabus of that year that the annual membership cost £1, junior membership 7/6d (37½p). This admitted members to all performances except the orchestral concert, for which the charge was 7/6d. And so, the Linlithgow Arts Guild was well and truly launched and has continued on similar lines ever since.

 

A LOOK INTO THE PAST

Over the years we have brought a multitude of top-class musicians and performers to the town - from full-scale orchestras like the Northern Sinfonia to the Scottish Ensemble and smaller ensembles such as the Tunnell Piano Quintet and the Robles Trio. In the early years we tended to engage well-established soloists such as Jack Brymer clarinet and singer and entertainer Ian Wallace. Recently it is up-and-coming young people, the winners of prestigious competitions like Linlithgow's own Steven Osborne, who entertain our audiences.

Theatre has always proved difficult because of the numbers involved. Mull Little Theatre and Theatre Roundabout were two of the highly acclaimed "two-hander" groups. We also had some brilliant one-man shows - Russell Hunter in Cocky and Callum Mill in The Baillie. We were lucky enough to be able to spot real winners before they became prohibitively expensive, e.g. the King's Singers, Hinge and Bracket, Donald Maxwell and Neil Mackie. One never-to-be-forgotten delight was provided by the group of Spanish Flamenco musicians and dancers, Antonia y Marino. The number of operas we have brought to Linlithgow (thanks to one or the other of the touring companies of Scottish Opera) is very impressive. The fact that a piano replaces the orchestra in no way diminishes the great enjoyment the marvellous singing and acting give the audience. We are always confident of being able to fill the hall for major events.

The Scottish Sinfonia and Choir, conducted by Neil Mantle, performed Elgar's Kingdom in St. Michael's Church for the Guild's 25th anniversary concert in October, 1994. The West Lothian District Council made a presentation to the Guild to mark this great occasion. In her speech accepting the salver on behalf of the Guild Mrs. Wade made the solemn promise that in the event of her winning the National Lottery (admittedly very unlikely) she would build a theatre for Linlithgow. This is because it is a perennial problem to find a suitable hall or venue in Linlithgow and we have to do our best to cope with the varied facilities available in school halls and the Burgh Halls. St. Michael's Church is an ideal setting for some types of music and its Kirk Hall has proved excellent for certain events.

The key to success has been to consistently bring in artists of the highest standard, and to attract a large audience from a wide area of Central Scotland to supplement the core membership in Linlithgow. We hope to continue to do this for many years to come!