THE pantomime Hansel and Gretel is set to be performed in front of a live audience at the Brunton Theatre this year after being saved thanks to a £100,000 boost from Creative Scotland.

The Brunton Theatre Trust, which runs the Musselburgh arts attraction, received the financial aid from the Performing Arts Venues Top Up Fund which is providing support amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The money will also be used to commission performing arts practitioners and create and deliver creative projects and activities for the benefit of Brunton audiences and East Lothian residents.

The last panto before live audiences at The Brunton was Cinderella in 2019 but a film of the family favourite Rapunzel was screened during December 2020 and January 2021.

Rapunzel went ahead with funding from Creative Scotland which threw the theatre a £250,000 lifeline last year after it was closed for six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Free for people to view, the filmed panto attracted much-needed donations to the theatre from schools and members of the public who viewed it.

The panto – East Lothian’s biggest – is set to return to the venue this year in front of live audiences.

A Brunton spokesperson described the Creative Scotland funding as “essential” to support the production.

“We are still working on the details but Hansel and Gretel will be a live, on stage pantomime,” she said. “With the removal of restrictions, we can now be open at full capacity for live performances.”

The emergency Covid-19 funds from the Scottish Government through Creative Scotland are part of £17million distributed to 331 organisations and venues across Scotland. From comedy clubs and theatres to galleries and production companies, the second round of the Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund (COVR) is designed to help prevent insolvency and/or significant job losses due to the impact of Covid-19. The Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund (PAVR) is helping venues to remain solvent, return staff from furlough, and enable new artistic commissions from freelance artists.

Michael Stitt, chairman of The Brunton Theatre Trust which has staged an annual panto since it was formed in 1994, welcomed the top up funding.

He said: “As a Scottish arts charity, 2021 continues to be an incredibly difficult year for The Brunton.

“The pandemic has impacted greatly on the operation of The Brunton and its programme, as it has done on venues throughout the country and on those employed within the arts.

“We are extremely grateful to receive support from Creative Scotland’s Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund. This funding is a crucial contribution that will assist The Brunton to remain stable through this difficult period and will support the continuation of our programme and the commissioning of freelance creative practitioners.

“We thank Creative Scotland for this funding. We also thank all our audiences and the local community for their ongoing patience and support for The Brunton during this challenging time.”

Ward councillor Stuart Currie said: “This is great news for The Brunton and will be warmly welcomed by all. I very much hope the popular panto season will be a real step in the right direction as the theatre recovers from the pandemic and goes from strength to strength.”

Councillor Andy Forrest welcomed the funding, highlighting the “phenomenal amount of work” that had been put in by the trustees and staff to get The Brunton “up and running” when the opportunities arose and provide East Lothian with a “first class” venue for events such as its annual pantomime.

He added: “I welcome the recognition they have got from Creative Scotland for doing that.”

Councillor John Williamson said: “This is wonderful news for both the theatre trust and the many local residents who will have greatly missed all that the Brunton offered pre-pandemic. The return of the famous Brunton panto will bring a smile to many faces, young and old.”

Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, added: “I was delighted to hear that The Brunton Theatre Trust has received £100,000 from Creative Scotland.

“Helping our performing arts through this tough time is really important.

“I was especially pleased to hear it will support the panto this Christmas. I went to my first panto at the Brunton and found it a hugely entertaining family event.

“I look forward to hearing of other activities at the Brunton which this funding will support.”

Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian’s MP, said: “This is great news. The panto is a traditional part of Scottish Christmas for many.

“It’s great for the theatre and artistes who’ve been suffering during lockdown. It’s also great for young and old to enjoy the fun and frolics.”

Donations to The Brunton can be made via its website: www.the