Macrobert is located on the campus of the University of Stirling in the heart of central Scotland. Originally built in 1971 as Scotland’s first purpose-built arts centre, it was refurbished and extended in 2002 at a cost of £6.5m. The aim of the building work was to revitalise the venue for all its users and to develop areas of the programme, such as film, which were constrained by the old building, says Suzanne McGarry. Apart from the existing and refurbished middle-scale theatre seating 466, it now houses a dedicated space for children’s theatre, a space for youth groups, a cinema, a café-bar, a children’s art gallery and a crèche.
The treehouse crèche is accommodated in the new extension in a large, bright and colourful room and offers supervised arts and crafts activities, including storytelling, for children aged from three months to twelve years. When plans for the refurbishment and extension of the building were being discussed, Liz Moran, the Artistic Director, decided she wanted to get the views of young people and so set up the ‘macrobert young consultancy’ scheme. This directly involved children and young people in deciding what to change in the arts centre. Over a period of several years we have recruited 38 Young Consultants aged 8 to 17, to give their views on all aspects of the venue – from the artistic programme to the price of sweets. They were involved in the design and development of the treehouse crèche; choosing elements of the décor including the monkeys hanging from the ceiling; and were each given £10 to spend on equipment such as a game, book or arts and crafts materials. An area that the architects gave close attention to in the building is health and safety. This includes covers on all electrical sockets and anti-finger trap strips on doors.
The crèche has proved very popular since its opening nearly 18 months ago and we have recently taken on two part-time members of staff in addition to the manager and a full-time member of staff (all fully qualified and police checked). Opening times are flexible and vary according to the venue’s programme – most weeks it’s open on Friday and Saturday evenings, then during matinées on Thursdays and Saturdays, and also on Thursday mornings when we regularly premiere new film releases. Opening times are indicated in the macrobert brochure so parents can book a film or show and at the same time book their child (or children) into the crèche. We encourage parents to do both at the same time so we can get our staffing levels right – we are governed by strict staff–child ratios – but having said that, we are almost always able to take last-minute bookings. Prices are £3 for an hour, £4 for two hours and £5 for three hours for each child whatever their age. Adults placing children in treehouse are given a vibrating pager allowing them to be contacted during shows or films, minimising the disturbance to others.
The treehouse has also become a popular venue for hosting birthday parties. We offer a wide range of possibilities for parties with a difference. Children can see a show or film or be creative with a dance, drama, music or visual arts workshop.
Suzanne McGarry is Marketing Manager at macrobert. t: 01786 467163;