Friday, 12 April 2013

Howden Park Centre

For over forty years, Howden Park Centre has been integral to the cultural output of Livingston so I thought I would look, briefly, at its history.
Invitation to the opening of Howden Park Centre, 1972
In 1972, as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Livingston Development Corporation, the stable block and coach house of Howden House were developed into an arts and conference centre.
 The building was opened by the actor Andrew Cruickshank. This new centre provided the Mews Theatre, an exhibition space, and accommodation for other groups involved in the arts. The Centre was administered by the Community Development Team of the Livingston Development Corporation until the Corporation's Wind-Up in 1997, when the Centre was taken on by the newly formed West Lothian Council.  Refurbished and extended, Howden Park Centre reopened in Spring 2009 following redevelopment to designs created by architects Nicoll Russell Studios.  In 2010 the Centre was named "Building of the Year" by the Edinburgh Architectural Association.

Cover of brochure for conference facilities
at Howden Park Centre

The local amateur dramatics society, The Livingston Players, put on three shows a year in the theatre, and have done since before there was a theatre.  Again, even before the buliding’s conversion, the stable block had been used by Livingston Arts Group as a meeting place and the Corporation promised to incorporate for facilities to use once the building had been converted – the group still meets there today. There have also been countless business conferences and art exhibitions and concerts and gigs held at the centre.

Livingston Development Corporation letter
regarding management of the Centre, 1974

In the archive we hold a variety of material relating to the centre.  We have the agreement to let the stables to Livingston Art Group, for example, and the minutes of the management group that directed the conversion of the building (and papers to do with the management of the facility in general). We also have brochures that advertise the conference facilities of the centre. More importantly, the Livingston Players, have, over the last few years, been depositing their records with us so we also hold a record of their performances.  We do, of course, as with anything that was built by the LDC, also hold an abundant amount of technical data on the construction and renovation of the building!
A lot of the cultural, social and economic conditions of Livingston today are a direct result of the decisions made in the 1970s - Howden Park Centre is one of the most positive results of those decision.  

Going back before Livingston New Town and the LDC, during World War II a bomb fell on the building Tuesday 25 June 1940 a bomb fell on the coach house and stables.  Mrs Maria Fleming and her granddaughter Margaret, aged 10, were killed.  These were the first civilians to be killed on the Scottish mainland and the only WWII deaths by bombing in West Lothian.

1 comment:

  1. We used to visit the grounds sometimes to play as children. I remember one time seeing a notice up about a meeting for the Legalise Cannabis Campaign.
    I also remember going to see a ballet school show in the theatre, and helping my parents out at a stall selling bric a brac, at some event there.