105-year-old world class cinema’s rebirth

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Words and photos Mark Davey

Campbeltown Community Business Ltd (CCB), owners of The Wee Pictures rolled out the red carpet for its supporters last week.

At a glittering evening event, last Thursday, fuelled in part by Glen Scotia whisky, Campbeltown Picture House, affectionately known as The Wee Pictures, was reborn as a 21st century cinema and formally opened.

In true Oscar fashion guests walked along a red carpet laid on Hall Street to be piped into the foyer by Jacques Huysamer.

Staff served canapes, collected coats and poured drinks for a wide variety of guests both individuals, all South Kintyre councillors and representatives of community associations.

Some headed away from the cinema’s ‘linear’ hall to quickly find good seats in screen one for the evening’s entertainment: trailer The Wee Pictures, a 30-minute light-hearted documentarty about the restoration and the main feature EDIE, starring Sheila Hancock.

In a quiet corner tucked at the bottom of the stairs, nearest the entrance is an honours board listing all who have either given funds in categories platinum, gold, silver and bronze, the trusts and foundations and all who have made seat endowments.

Master of ceremonies, John Beveridge, took the stage at about 7.30pm to explain the format of the night before introducing CCB chairman, Jane Mayo.

In a clearly emotional speech, Mrs Mayo said: ‘I cannont believe this day has actually come.

‘This project could not have happened without all the volunteers and funders, right down to the people who put a penny in collecting tins on shop counters.

Mrs Mayo introduced Martin Wade of the Heritage Lottery Fund which contributed £1.4 million of the funding.

‘The Picture House is a gem sitting on the waterfront,’ said Mr Wade, ‘It is a testament to our belief that this much loved building could be reborn for the 21st century.

‘It is always worth talking to the taxi drivers. The one who drove me from the airport said he has been to the cinema twice and it is the best thing that has happened in the town in recent years.

‘I would like to thank everyone in Scotland and beyond who bought a lottery ticket.’

Keynote speaker, Nicholas Ferguson CBE, told the audience about becoming aware of The Wee Pictures as a teenager when he sailed into the loch, however, he added: ‘We always raced to the pub.’

The philanthropist, who made a fortune in the city of London during the Thatcherite boom of the 1980s, said he is not a great believer in the ‘they’ word but is a huge believer in the ‘we’ word and this project is a good example.

Mr Ferguson quoted John Ruskin and said: ‘Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts—the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art.

‘Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last.’

‘Closing his speech he declared that without further ado ‘we should watch movies.’

The 30-minute trailer starred Oban based actor, Roddy MacEachen, as The Wee Pictures original manager, F Rendell Burnette. He acted as a narrator relating the cinema’s 105 year history.

Before the pre-release screening of EDIE, its producer, Mark Stothert, of Cape Wrath films, told the audience a bit about its making near the village of Lochiniver.

Mr Stothert said: ‘It is a fantastic honour for EDIE to be selected as the film for the opening, I am delighted.

‘In my opinion this is Sheila Hancock’s stand-out performance of her career.

‘Everything you see on the screen Sheila did and remember there’s no cheating at all.’

‘Climbing Suilven, which is 13 miles from the nearest road, is the toughest thing I have ever done. It takes 12 hours if you are really going for it and the top is not a doddle, it is particularly sheer.

‘One of the things that got this film made was the midges. Months before we started I put a line in the diary, at the end of May and said: ‘We will get the film done by then, because I know about midges.’

The Wee Pictures’ honours board.  25_c17cinema18

Alan Milstead and CCB board member Emma Macalister Hall.  25_c17cinema15

CCB chairman Jane Mayo during her speech.  25_c17cinema05

CCB board member David Mayo . 25_c17cinema16

Musical entertainment from Campbeltown Brass. 25_c17cinema07

Piper Jacques Huysamer played at the entrance.  25_c17cinema01_piper_Jacques_Huysamer

CCB board members: Elaine McGeachy, Campbell Read, Rachel Read and Stuart McGeachy. 25_c17cinema14

Cinema staff including Liam Paterson, seen here, served drinks and canapés. 25_c17cinema13

Guests in screen one’s stalls. 25_c17cinema11

Master of ceremonies John Beveridge. 25_c17cinema06

Nicholas Ferguson CBE during his keynote speech. 25_c17cinema03