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Celebrating 50 Years of Brunton Hall

Jane Corrigan, Front of House Manager at The Brunton, talks about her memories

What is your first memory of being at The Brunton?

That would be around 1974 when as a child, I attended Jean Reynolds dance classes and we had boards, in what are now our offices and did tap dance practice. I moved to Morag Alexander’s School of Dance and remember being on stage in the show. You think it will be scary but in reality you can’t see the faces in the audience because of the lights and you are listening to the music, concentrating on your dances and don’t get time to get stage fright!  I also came to The Brunton to see Mr Boom and a production of The Glass Menagerie by Byre Theatre Company in 1984, it was fabulous.  A friend’s big brother, Simon Tait, was in it and it was an amazing performance. 

You have worked at The Brunton since 1984. You must have lots of fun memories of working here?

I have lots of great memories. There have been some unusual occurrences – we have had a sheep, a donkey and a dog on stage!  I enjoy meeting all the different artistes and famous people and have been lucky enough to meet a variety of people including: Leo Sayer, Les McKeown, The Alexander Brothers, Alistair McDonald, Peter Morrison, Alvin Stardust, Anita Harris, Sydney Devine, Lee Mack, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, Jenni Éclair, Jason Donovan, Gordon Strachan, Judy Murray. Ron Coburn was memorable as he did entertainment shows for elderly in the community latterly but years ago used to do the panto. I still to this day remember him saying “Chase me, chase me, I’m the last Bus to Prestonpans!” and the words to “Ginger the Orangutan” – a song that was part of panto – they adopted Ginger at Edinburgh Zoo and had a collection after each show and helped pay for its upkeep.

The Brunton is taking shows to Musselburgh Racecourse this summer, but has a long history of putting on shows in other locations. What is it like looking after front of house out and about?

When Brunton Theatre was closed for refurbishment years ago, we took shows on tour round East Lothian and that was huge fun – transforming a hall or hotel ballroom into a theatre space.  

It’s been a learning curve for all since Covid.  For outside events, we have sanitiser, spare masks, wipes, track and trace code and clipboard and we have to set up outside spaces that are safe and suitable for performers and the public alike. We do a site visit in advance and on the day we set it up to enable people to sit socially distanced in their groups. We also need to dress for the Scottish weather so we don’t get cold/windswept/wet or burnt!

The Brunton is usually packed with shows year round, what have you missed during the pandemic closures?

While The Brunton has been closed due to Covid, I’ve missed seeing everyone – the patrons and the staff, as we are like a big family and I was concerned about how they would all be coping as everyone was having different things to deal with. I did meet one lady in the supermarket during lockdown, who comes to classical concerts and she was worrying about us at The Brunton and wanted to get back to see us all.  It’s moments like that that make it all worthwhile. It will be lovely to have our audiences and staff and performers all back together for live performances and events and for there to be the buzz about the place that makes it so special. 

What do you think makes The Brunton Hall such a special place?

The Brunton is special as it is at the heart of the community and contributes to everyone’s lives – whether they come to the building to pay their council tax, go to The Bistro, watch a live performance at the Theatre or Venues, or participate in one of our many classes. Music, dance, drama and the arts, reach parts of you that other things don’t and are good for the soul. 

In my job, I need to be able to react and be proactive. Over the years I’ve lent Jenny Éclair my hair curling brush and straighteners and went to get special tea for one artiste and borrowed an arm ironing board attachment for another! To be able to make it all come together and be successful is a huge achievement. I think sometimes you run on adrenaline – then at the end of the shift when everyone leaves, you are tired but feel you’ve had a successful day and evening – that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Click here to find out more about The Brunton’s out and about programme this summer.

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