Treasures dating back decades uncovered during Playhouse refurbishment

Ticket stubs, cigarette packets and old pipes from the original Playhouse organ were found while clearing out the historic venue.

Treasures and trinkets dating back decades have been uncovered during a refurbishment of the Edinburgh Playhouse.

The theatre has been closed for a 12-week maintenance project since May 15.

While the ongoing work has been focused on updating the current ventilation system, installing a new control system for the orchestra pit and cleaning the building facade, a few fascinating finds have been made along the way.

Staff came across over 40 of the pipes from the original Edinburgh Playhouse organ along with internal parts of the console itself while clearing out the vents and some of the rooms below stage level.

Among some of the other artefacts found during the refurbishment are cigarette packets used by workers in the 1980s, as well as old tickets and posters for shows being advertised.

Mark Smellie is the deputy floor manager at the Playhouse and has worked there for 34 years.

He said: “Now I seem to have an eye for tiny little bits of paper. The best one I saw was a half-ticket stub amongst rubble.

“We also found a lot of cigarette packets because you were allowed to smoke back then when they were building the building. We also found a lot of newspapers, but they are very delicate as they are nearly 100 years old – now and again I like to get one and read what was happening in 1929 or 1928.”

The original Playhouse organ was installed for the venue’s opening in 1929, as part of the cinema’s ‘rising orchestra’.

It was used continually until the 1940s when it was no longer being maintained in the way it once was.

It remained unused until the early 1970s when Gordon Lucas and Larry McGuire, two former employees of the Edinburgh Playhouse, founded the Scottish Theatre Organ Preservation Society (STOPS) and began restoring the organ to bring it back to life.

The organ was then used weekly every Friday and Saturday night during cinema intermissions.

The Edinburgh Playhouse was then sold in 1973, due to the decline of cinema, and set for demolition.

From 1976 to 1977, the Edinburgh Playhouse was opened for occasional pop and rock concerts.

Elton John played an iconic solo concert that was broadcast worldwide, live from the theatre.

Edinburgh Playhouse theatre director Marie Nixon said: “It’s just incredible to think that for over 90 years thousands and thousands of people have been coming into this theatre and cinema as it was at one time, to be taken away from their day to day lives to be delighted and entertained – and actually it turns out each one of them has left a little bit of their legacy, a little memento of their time here and it’s just delightful to find them now as we’re undertaking this building project.”

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