GREENOCK'S historic Arts Guild has been emptied ahead of a switch to a new �10m facility on the waterfront.

The Campbell Street theatre has been completely cleared out ahead of the move to the new Beacon Arts Centre.

The big removal started after the final show at the 65-year-old theatre on 8 December - Cinderella.

Everything from chairs to office equipment is being shifted to the Beacon as the guild is left as an empty shell.

Staff from the Arts Guild were handed the keys by Beacon building contractors last Thursday.

Elliott McKelvie, chairman of Greenock Arts Guild, said: "It was a bittersweet moment for many Inverclyde people as the old building has finally closed its doors.

"For those of us who have been regular visitors to The Guild since we were children, we leave behind many happy memories of our time spent there - times which we shall always reflect upon with fondness.

"It is sad to see the old theatre devoid of its seats and fittings all of a sudden. The end of the old building closes a very large chapter of our lives."

Greenock Arts Guild Ltd was founded in 1946 as a not for profit company whose aims were to promote and encourage participation in arts activities.

The Guild purchased a disused private swimming baths and converted it into an arts centre which first opened its doors in 1949, with the small 100-seat Wallace Bennett Theatre and two meeting rooms.

The main theatre, with 500 seats, opened in 1955 in what was once a swimming pool.

The slope of the pool floor made for good audience views when it became the stalls, with the stage being constructed at what had been the pool's deep end.

In the 1960s, further meeting rooms and a scenery store were added and in the 80s the Wallace Bennett Theatre was converted into studio space.

The move to the Beacon in the New Year has been nine years in the making and signals the start of a new era for arts and entertainment in Inverclyde.

The theatre has already been praised by famous Greenock actor and Arts Guild patron, Richard Wilson, who had a special tour during a visit to town last month.

Mr McKelvie said: "Looking ahead, with the Beacon about to open to the public very soon, Inverclyde will be the home of the finest theatre of its size anywhere in Scotland.

"So whilst The Guild served my generation very well, there is a new generation of young people who will look to the Beacon to become just as important to them as The Guild was for my generation."