Many large scale theatre organisations would choose a glitzy, showbizzy approach to a 25th birthday celebration, full of well-known names and the high profile resident companies that frequently grace its stage. The Festival Theatre hosts major touring productions, including (in the past year) the likes of the National Theatre’s War Horse and Cameron Mackintosh’s Miss Saigon.

So it was a breath of fresh air, that the entire focus of this birthday party show, was the local community. It’s enlightening too, for those who only visit the stunning venue for big-name productions, to discover the wonderful work carried out by Capital Theatres and the projects with which it’s affiliated. The ethos of 25 Live was that, as host Saskia Ashdown commented: “Everyone is an artist. Everyone is an expert of their own experiences”. The result was an immensely diverse night of entertainment, that often brought a tear to the eye.

The line-up included choir music, dance and short films to create an upbeat and moving variety show. Performances were brought to us from the Forget Me Note Singers, opportunities were provided to participants, almost all of whom may not otherwise have the chance to appear on what is the largest stage in Scotland. To add to the theme of accessibility for everyone, tickets were just £10 – and included a glass of prosecco – making it great value and open to a wide audience.

Reflecting this sense of diversity, we saw live performances from the Forget Me Note Choir (part of the theatre’s dementia programme), Brookwell Court elders community, Pilrig Park School, Rosie Kay Dance Company, Dance Ihayami Youth Collective, The Vintage Chorus and a group of the theatre’s front of house staff. The on-screen creations came from Harmeny Residential School, Braidburn School, LGBT Youth Scotland and St David’s primary and pre-school.

Classical singer Jamie MacDougall and actor, musician and artistic director (Twelve Twelve Theatre) Saskia Ashdown fronted the evening. Ashdown has a personal connection with Capital Theatres, as a prior participant in the emerging artist’s programme.

The finale featured glitter cannons and the entire cast ebulliently dancing on the stage to Pharrell Williams’ Get Happy, ensuring we went home uplifted. This wasn’t a slick, perfect or high-end show, but it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, it was full of heart, hope and joy.

Photos courtesy of Greg Macvean.