Birnam Arts and Conference Centre

Raising the cultural quality of life

So far all of our Pioneers are individuals, who through a wide range of talent and expertise epitomise what we mean when we say we have a fantastic cultural offering in Perth and Kinross.  However, with our next Pioneer we are taking a different approach and looking at an organisation that has a history in the area going back to the 1880’s.

Today, the Birnam Arts and Conference Centre is a multi-purpose arts, conferencing and entertainment venue; but from the very beginning it has been a community owned and run facility.  Local Stationmaster, John Kinnaird, had a vision in 1880 to create a community facility for education and entertainment for the Dunkeld and Birnam area.  By enlisting help from the many visitors arriving at Birnam Station he raised the money needed secure the original site.  Extension plans for the site were drawn up to include a library and reading room, hall, refreshment and games room and caretakers accommodation.  The institute was formally opened in the 29th September 1883.

Looking back at the history of the organisation there is an unbreakable thread that has grown from the commitment and dedication of those volunteers involved with the centre.  The ambition of those involved has always been to find a way to keep going even when faced with challenges such as the First and Second World Wars where the building was used to house soldiers and activities had to be put on hold.  For example during the Second World War, it was arranged for travelling theatre companies to come in and entertain the soldiers.

The centre has never rested on its laurels and has always striven to move with the times so that it remains as a central hub for the community.  From the introduction of public baths in the 1890s, to showing movies in the 1920s, right up to the 1990s when it embarked on a further ambitious major building project.

In 2001, the modern day Birnam Arts and Conference Centre was unveiled with its sensitive design respectful of the conservation area the building lies within.  The centre continues to be a community-led organisation, which today is also a recognised charitable trust.  Throughout the year the centre offers a varied and vibrant arts programme that embodies the ethos of raising the cultural quality of life for residents of the local and wider community.

Key features on the programme include stand-up comedy; theatre for all ages; informative talks; opera, classical and traditional music; jazz and the occasional rock band.  There are also workshops on Silversmithing, ceramics, willow-weaving, kids crafts and musical tuition.

A key feature of the modern building is the exhibition space for artists to display their work.  The centre provides a platform for artists with the spacious and beautifully lit mezzanine area, an ideal area to showcase any creation.  While this area is reserved for monthly exhibitions for professional artists, in the true spirit of the centre, amateur artists also get their own dedicated area to display their work to the public.

One of the themes of the Perth 2021 City of Culture bid is that the arts and culture should be accessible to all; and the Birnam Arts and Conference Centre is one of the jewels in the crown for the area that does this and more.

To find out more about the programme of activities on offer at our Perth Pioneer organisation Birnam Arts and Conference Centre visit their website https://www.birnamarts.com/