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The silver screen


TWO ORGANISATIONS are helping to bring a beloved building back to life.

WHITELADIES ROAD Picture House, located next to Clifton Down shopping centre in Clifton, Bristol, is a much loved and affectionately remembered cinema that was begrudgingly closed down 12 years ago to great public upset. The cinema was operated as a single screen 600 seat cinema, which simply was not viable in a time where multiplex 12 screen cinemas were being built in out-of-town developments.

The Whiteladies Picture House Ltd, a not-for-profit company that is the process of converting to a registered charity, aims to raise the funds to purchase the building and then convert it into a community arts centre that consists of a 450-seat theatre, 200-seat cinema and live performance space, large function room, retail unit and private meeting room.

The diversity of the developmemt will make it possible to create a finacially viable ans self-sufficient for all of Bristol to enjoy. The venue will be able to host films, theatre, dance, live music, stand-up comedy, lectures, temporary art installations, corporate events and private functions.

Due to the growing popularity of the arts in Bristol, many companies and organisations are struggling to find available performance spaces. The Picture House's main auditorium will be the perfect size to fill the gap between the smaller venues such as the Tobacco Factory, Bristol Old Vic Studio and Redgrave (with less than 350 seats each) and the larger venues such as the Hippodrome and Colston Hall, containing approximately 2000 seats each.

The eclectic nature of the venue will mean that it is unlike any other venue in Bristol; the varied program will attract a large audience base and this, couped with the multiple spaces, will allow several events to happen simultaneously - and so maximize the possible revenue stream. This is important as the recent cuts in arts council and public funding has made it essential for the building to be able to cover its running costs.

For the last 12 months Bristol-based Jonathan Lees Architects have been working with Whiteladies Picture House Ltd to develop plans to restore this iconic Art Deco building back to its former splendour, and have also helped in ensuring that the recent planning application to turn the building into flats and a gym were refused by the Planning Inspectorate. Jonathan Lees Architects are developing a tailored approach to the development of the project and ave assembled a highly competent design team including Chris Baldwin of ACT Theatre Consultants, Duncan Ball of quantity surveyor Bare Leaning and Bare, Russell O'Callighan of Jubb Consulting Structural Engineers and specialist funding manager Suzy West to help progress with the project and to develop the designs. The initial and vital aim of the team is to produce a feasibility study including a detailed business case analysis and vigorous business test carried out by Eric Hargrave, which will help to inform the design of the proposed installations and modifications of the internal spaces. The feasibility study will also outline the phasing of the project over the coming months and years and develop a strategy to ensure that the building use is sustainable during and after restoration takes place.

The unique nature of the venue will be enhanced by Jonathan Lees Architects' approach to new proposals that will preserve the existing historic fabric of the structure and original Art Deco auditorium, while providing the lastest facilities and comfort. Vital conservation work will be carried out to the exterior and interior spaces, with the principle areas being retained as 'found spaces'. The new auditorium will be installed around existing details to celebrate the history and pevious use of the venerable structure.

The public response to the scheme has been very remarkable, and certainly helped in ensuring that the recent planning application by the building's current owner, to convert hte building into five flats and a gym, was rejected first by the Bristol Planning Committee and then again by the Planning Inspectorate when the council's decision was appealed.

However now is the time for action and Whiteladies Picture House Ltd is pushing ahead ith its fundraising aims. Excitingly, you can now raise money for the Picture House while you shop online; just click on the easy fundraising link on their website:

On 14 April 2013 the WLPH will aso be launching a kick-starter campaign to help with initial development costs and to allow them to qualify for charitable status. Various rewards will be on offer to encourage people to donate, and these will even include concept art created by Jonathan Lees Architects.

WLPH are also planning a variety of fundraising events at other venues around the city including comedy nights, film screenings, and live perfromances-for more information abouth these events please sign up to their mailing list (via their website) or follow the campaign on twitter @wlpicturehouse or on


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