Rich Rowe from the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles reflects on an eventful and busy 2018. It was a year that also saw significant progress in a development plan that will see the transformation of the auditorium in summer 2019 – making the theatre better able to serve the community for decades to come.

The year began with more than 1,000 people packing the theatre over a January weekend as the Peebles Outdoor Film Festival served up a dazzling array of adventure films and inspirational speakers, including explorer Benedict Allen – who had made headlines around the world following his disappearance in Papua New Guinea – ocean adventurer Olly Hicks and ultra-endurance athlete Jenny Tough.

The festival also highlighted a selection of local heroes – adventurers of all ages living here and doing remarkable things, adding to the range of local community activities showcased throughout the Eastgate year.

Both the Tweeddale Society and Music in Peebles entertained packed audiences, while Tweed Theatre struck gold with one comedy about pole dancing, another about elderly women escaping from a retirement home, and five sell-out pantomime performances starring evil Baron Trumpton.

On the four Wednesdays in April, the Anne Younger Studio was filled with people enjoying Bite Sized Entertainments – a light lunch followed by a performance. This daytime strand in the programme featured performances by an author, a story teller, a soprano (singing Schumann) and the violinists of Riddle Fiddles.

The theatre also saw an outstanding array of live music from home and abroad.

The likes of McGoldrick, McCusker & Doyle, RANT, Kris Drever and Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham brought the very best of trad and folk music, while bands such as Celtic Fiddle Festival, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, Martin Simpson and Woody Pines sprinkled some international stardust.

There was no shortage of dance, glitz and glamour when the Lady Boys of Bangkok returned to perform a sell-out show in August, while the Eastgate also saw the world premiere of STUFF – a new play by Sylvia Dow and directed by Muriel Romanes developed in residency in the building.

These were just a few of the more than 200 theatre events – ranging across professional drama for children and adults, live music, blockbuster films and on screen relays of productions from the National Theatre, Royal Opera and Royal Ballet.

The Eastgate’s programme of festivals continued with Creative Peebles Festival in August, plus Read-a-licious children’s book festival and Rapt in Winter visual arts celebration in November.

The theatre also headed out of Peebles staging events in Innerleithen and Kailzie Gardens as well as taking part in the historic Procession event which saw the creation of a huge banner to mark the centenary of women winning the right to vote and then a march, with hundreds of other banners and thousands of people, through the streets of Edinburgh.

Fundraising for the ambitious theatre development plan has taken place all year and during a huge push through July and August the contributions generated by individuals, community groups and organisations meant that phase one – the transformation of the auditorium – could be realised. Work is scheduled to begin in summer 2019.