In the market for major revival at Sheffield picture house
When the Abbeydale Picture House opens its doors to host the Sheffield Antiques Quarter's next vintage market this weekend, Nick Potter will be watching with interest to see the enthusiasm the event generates.
“We really appreciate it, and we’re glad we can make it happen,” says Nick, project officer at CADS, the city charity that took over the old cinema on a 25-year lease in January.
The market - an indoor and outdoor affair with stalls, live music, street food and, racily for a Sunday, burlesque dancing - is just one of the activities CADS hopes will bring more people to the venue, giving the place a strong momentum and vibrancy before funds for a major restoration are sought.
Recent highlights include the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival in May, which followed a weekend-long beer festival.
“We’ve had multiple full houses here,” says Nick.
“It’s a great building and it needs to be used.”
The picture house opened in 1920, when silent films were the order of the day, and closed in 1975. A Friends group was later formed to revive the venue, but the society went into administration and plans to open a climbing centre hit the buffers.
In 2015 films started to be shown there again, seats were reinstated and a string of one-off happenings were held by arts promoters Hand Of, before the reins were handed to CADS, which runs a growing network of studios and events spaces.
The idea is to turn the picture house into a community hub, open all day, complementing night-time entertainment such as gigs, comedy and exhibitions.
A co-working space - Studio One - has opened upstairs, and a café is a top priority too. Food and coffees were briefly sold last year and a replacement eatery ‘will happen soon’, says Nick.
“We’re just finalising the details of it. It’s just a case of finding someone to make it work. We know people are interested.”
Temporary event notices are needed each time activities are organised, but it is hoped that a full venue licence can be secured by the end of this year.
Parallel to the immediate activity aimed at boosting visitor numbers, CADS is working up a bid for Heritage Lottery funding which - if successful - would cover the cost of a full restoration.
In addition, a crowdfunding appeal is about to be launched, allowing supporters to have a stake in the picture house’s future and contribute towards securing a licence.
“We won’t get to the point where we can say explicitly what we want to do for a year or so,” Nick says.
“It would be about fully bringing it back to its former glory in every sense.”
Completely restoring the plaster and bringing the balcony back into use are on the ‘to do’ list, though, and the building’s heritage has offered a few suggestions.
“There used to be a really long walkway along the pavement with a covered glass canopy. That’s one of the things that would be really nice. At the moment that’s completely out of the question.”
Proper funding would also allow hidden features to be revealed. When the venue was taken over by Star Cinemas in the 1960s it was converted to widescreen, with a wooden curtain put in place.
“Behind that is the largest proscenium arch outside the West End. I’ve not seen it - but it’s there.
“It’s quite dramatic.”
The lottery application will be a ‘long process’ with several stages, Nick admits, but adds: “We’ve heard really positive noises so far. They are really excited.”
The market runs from 11am to 5pm. Entry £2, kids free. Visit goo.gl/v9WY1W for full details.