Early Beginnings

The Eastgate Theatre is a venue rooted in its community. Back in 1991, representatives of local arts groups highlighted the need for a centre for the arts in Tweeddale. The “Under One Roof” group was set up to raise funds after a local authority review had identified that a gap existed for a mid-scale performing arts venue, which could also act as a regional facility and a community hub for arts participation, performance and film. After several years of fundraising and feasibility studies, Borders 1996 Company Limited was formed, and acquired the Eastgate Hall in Peebles. The building had started life in 1871 as a church and continued in regular use as a community hall, but was marked for closure until offered a new lease of life as a new centre for the arts in the Borders.

The £2.79million of funding needed to do this was eventually raised with grants from the Scottish Arts Council Capital Committee, the ERDF, Scottish Borders Enterprise, Scottish Borders Council and funds raised by local people and organisations. Multi award-winning Edinburgh-based architect Richard Murphy was commissioned in 1998 and six months of building work commenced in October 2002. The long awaited Eastgate Theatre & Arts Centre finally opened its door to the public on March 4th 2004.  The award-winning design by Richard Murphy Architects has served the community well ever since. Today there are ever increasing demands being made on the building by local organisations and groups, as well as by arts and artists. 

The Eastgate’s events programme combines live events, screenings and mainstream films in the auditorium; a range of participation opportunities for adults and young people throughout the year; and a set of annual festivals which are designed to attract both local and visiting audiences at key points in the year.  The overall programme is carefully curated to balance arts across all disciplines, attract the best national and international artists to the Scottish Borders, promote the work and potential of Borders based artists and provide a professionally staffed facility to support the work of local arts, community and professional organisations. 


Eastgate facilities are continuously improved, with annual maintenance weeks seeing volunteers and staff involved in painting, sewing, cleaning and all sorts of DIY.

In 2017 a major rebuild involved the reconstruction of the gallery next to the technical box created a bank of 12 plush seats raised above the retractable rake.

Long standing plans for a major development of the auditorium and café were realised in 2019 after capital corporate funding was supported by a huge fundraising effort that raised £75,000 donated by a range of local businesses and the extraordinary effort of individual donors.   On 15 June 2019 work began.   By the end of early September 2019, the theatre was re-developed to designs by Simpson & Brown Architects.

The Auditorium

  • The existing retractable seating bank was replaced providing new, more comfortable seats, arm rests and better legroom.
  • The aisles were fitted with hand grabs to help customers move up and down the steps more easily and safely.
  • The side gallery seats – which had always provided a very restricted view of the stage – were replaced by raised new seating on diagonally stepped platforms.  In addition to raising these seats, the height of the balcony walls was reduced and topped with “see through” wiring.
  • Low level lighting was set into the central aisle steps and to the side balconies to improve safety.
  • New heating ducts were installed bringing hot air to floor level, improving audience comfort and reducing heating costs.

In the entrance/café area:

  • The main entrance was re-positioned giving direct access through a double set of automatic doors for everyone including parents with buggies, those with unsteady balance, people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
  • With advice from Dementia Friends Scotland, a new “snug” area was created using reclaimed red velour theatre seats – another step towards making the Eastgate accessible, and welcoming, to all.

Following the major refurbishment, the Eastgate reopened its doors in September 2019.

The auditorium is now completely refreshed with more space and better sightlines from both stalls and balconies. The cafe is now more accessible than ever with automatic doors, a new (really comfy) seating bank in the snug, as well as extra, flexible space for chairs and tables. Customers enjoy a refreshed café menu, emphasising healthy, home-made food (as well as the anticipated scrumptious cakes).  The café also continues to reduce its carbon footprint by removing plastics and introducing re-usable and recyclable mugs and glasses.

By 2021/2022 the Eastgate’s programme of performances and films was attracting around 12,000 theatregoers.  The Eastgate café, classes and workshops, meetings, private hires and studio exhibitions generated an annual footfall estimated to be in excess of 50,000.

As the Eastgate approaches 20 years since it was opened by The Princess Royal in 2004, plans are in place for a high-quality line-up of events and continued development of the education and outreach programme as well as an anniversary year of celebration.

The Eastgate is determined to cement its position as a crucial Scottish touring venue that brings the best international arts to the Borders and presents the finest work by Borders artists to the world.