Abbeydale’s intermission

Abbeydale Picture House.
Abbeydale Picture House.

TRUSTEES of Abbeydale Picture House - the old cinema that was revived six years ago as a theatre and community arts centre - have been given breathing space in their campaign to keep the building.

An auction due to be held last Tuesday has been postponed until October 30.

The 92-year-old listed building is being sold by receivers after it was repossessed by Yorkshire Bank because the community trust had been unable to keep up with mortgage payments.

The Friends of Abbeydale Picture House hope to buy back the building themselves, or work with a buyer to fulfil ambitions of further restoring and developing it as a focal point for the performing arts, theatre, live music and cinema.

Auction guide price is £150,000. So far the Friends have received pledges of £50,000 and they are aiming to launch a community share scheme in a similar way to campaigners who trying to secure the future of Portland Works, a former cutlery works near Bramall Lane, as a complex for craftspeople and artists.

It is hoped that a loan can be obtained from the Architectural Heritage Fund to help give the Friends time to organise the community share issue.

Friends chairman Clive Jacques said they were working with Opus Independents, a non-profit organisation based in Sheffield, which promotes independent art, music, literature and business with a view to them using the former cinema, and they were being supported by the council and local MP Paul Blomfield.

Mr Jacques said the auction postponement would giving “a bit more time to hopefully get the funding in place.

“We have spoken to (council leader) Julie Dore and Paul Blomfield and both are keen to help. Paul has been several times. We are going to go for community shares, and there is a lot of interest out there.”

But with an auction pending, and with at least one other serious potential bidder thought to be in the background, the future of the landmark Abbeydale Road building remains uncertain.

Although theatrical events, concerts and community activities have been staged there over the past six years, many to raise money for the campaign, they have dried up because of the possibility of the building changing hands. A youth theatre, an art club and a club of maintenance volunteers are waiting to see whose hands it will be in soon.

Since the Friends were formed ten years ago, it has secured patrons such as Peter Stringfellow, Michael Palin and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Mr Jacques said: “We are as optimistic as we can be. It all falls back on the bank and whether it wants to keep working with the trust or it wants to get rid of the building.”

The Friends hopes the bank will heed the widespread community support. “At the recent Heritage Open Day we had 130 people in three hours, which shows the interest in the building. People do care about it.”

Council leader Julie Dore said: “We support the campaign of Friends of Abbeydale Picture House to secure the future of the building as a community arts venue. Local arts facilities play an important role in the local community and we hope to see this continue. We have made representations on behalf of the group and hope they gain a satisfactory outcome.”

Abbeydale Picture House is being auctioned by Mark Jenkinson & Son. Auctioneer Adrian Little said: “We have had a lot of interest in the property, both locally and nationally.”