Birnam Arts & Conference Centre

(The Birnam Institute)

Located on Station Road in Birnam, a half-mile (1 km) southeast of Dunkeld, the Birnam Arts & Conference Centre opened in 2001 as a focus for community arts, exhibitions, films, meetings, performances and workshops. The building also hosts the Beatrix Potter exhibition, a cafe and shop, together with a local library and offices of Perthshire Community Learning.

The Centre has its origins in the Birnam Institute, a scheme initiated in 1880 by local stationmaster John Kinnaird to create a community venue for 'education and entertainment'. The land and building stone were gifted by local laird, Sir Douglas Stewart of Murthly. The Institute opened on 29th September 1883 and cost £1662. It housed a hall, games room, library and reading room, as well as caretaker's accommodation. The facilities could be used for an annual membership fee of 5/- for men and 3/6 for women. Within a decade, the Birnam Institute Committee embarked on another ambitious scheme - the building of public baths which were completed in 1890.

Troops were billeted in the Institute during the First World War, but it was renovated in the 1920s to also serve as a cinema. During World War II the military again used the building, while a travelling theatre company entertained troops and locals alike. After the war the building was used by community groups, although always struggled to find funds. During the 1990s plans were formulated to refurbish the Institute and provide for a large modern extension, with the capability of generating income. The resulting £2 million project began in 2000.

The centre is also home to the Dalguise Pillar, a carved stone column with Corinthian details and spiral fluting topped by a unicorn, which probably dates from the 18th century and may have been a market cross. Between c.1850 and 1980 it was located on the lawn of Dalguise House, 5 miles (8 km) to the northwest. Beatrix Potter spent her summers there and she is known to have drawn the pillar.

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