Meeting To Ensure Future Of Picture House
All who love the Hebden Bridge Picture House and care about its future are being invited to a meeting being held at Riverside School on Thursday, March 3rd from 7.30pm.
The meeting will discuss ways of ensuring the cinema’s long-term survival, and how it can be developed as an important asset for the town.
“With fairtrade hot chocolate, friendly staff, homemade cakes and a chance to see unusual films as well as mainstream blockbusters, the Picture House has to be one of the country’s best independent cinemas,” said Robin Dixon, mayor of Hebden Royd. “Although the Picture House isn’t directly under threat at the moment, local authority cuts could threaten it in the future. Now’s the time to start to think about securing its future.”
The meeting will propose the return of the Friends of the Picture House – the successful local group that campaigned against plans in 1999 to redevelop the site.
The meeting is being called by a partnership of local organisations, including Hebden Royd Town Council, Hebden Bridge Partnership, the Community Association, the Arts Festival, Ground Floor Project and the four rural parish councils. Together, they have had preliminary talks with Calderdale about transferring the Picture House into community hands. Details of how such an arrangement might work will be shared at the meeting.
“There is an enormous pool of public support for our cinema, and we know that a lot of people will have ideas about how we can protect its future, develop, improve it and make it an even better community resource,” added Robin Dixon.
The meeting will also hear from Bill Lawrence, former head of film at the National Media Museum in Bradford and more recently creative director of an independent cinema in Sheffield, who will be describing the experience of other towns running successful independent cinemas.
“We believe that, in recent years, the cinema has been very close to being profitable. The building itself needs some money spending on it, but we’ve begun to identify possible sources of finance. We’re relatively confident that, with a lot of goodwill, the cinema can be made financially secure,” Robin Dixon said.
Some basic principles have been agreed between the partner organisations. These include ensuring that the cinema continues to be a public resource, managed in a democratic and transparent way; that the current mix of film programming is maintained, and that the jobs of the staff are safeguarded. It’s also been agreed that the Picture House should continue to be used for community events, and the partner organisations would like to see more use made of the building during the day.
“Back in the late 1960s, the Picture House was nearly converted into a carpet warehouse, and what was then the Urban District Council stepped in to buy it and save it. Another threat was seen off in 1999, thanks to the Friends of the Picture House. It would be wonderful if the Friends group could be re-established at the March meeting. This is a real chance for the town to safeguard this fabulous cinema and develop it into an even more thriving place, not just for film but for events and all kinds of community activities,” Robin Dixon said.
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