Work starts on Telford community cinema
Work has begun on a scheme to convert a disused former Telford bank into a community cinema – with volunteers hoping it could be up-and-running by February.
Telford-based building firm McPhillips has been appointed to work on former HSBC bank building in Station Road, Wellington, and began preliminary work at the end of last week.
The building has been taken over by Clifton Community Arts Centre Ltd, which was originally set up to reopen the former Clifton Cinema in the town.
The volunteer group decided to convert the former bank after the Clifton was sold to a developer.
The group plans to turn the bank into a cinema which will be known as The Wellington Orbit.
McPhillips’ marketing manager Mark Kiddie said he was delighted the group had chosen the company, which has its roots in Wellington and employs a lot of local people.
“It’s a pleasure for McPhillips to be able to play a part in this important community project that will provide fantastic new leisure facilities to the people of Wellington,” he said.
Fiona Hunter, director of Clifton Community Arts, said the first phase of the work would see the ground floor of the building turned into an 80-seat cinema and bistro, with the foundations being laid to extend upstairs.
She said if the work went according to plan, the cinema could be open as early as the end of February next year.
"It's an extremely old building, dating back to 1901," Mrs Hunter said.
"It's very hard when you're dealing with an old building, but if everything goes according to plan, we could be ready to open by the end of February.
"So far the ceiling tiles have been removed, revealing the most beautiful art deco ceiling. We probably won't be able to keep that due to cost, but you never know."
Mrs Hunter said the second phase would see the first and second floors turned into space for an art gallery, dance and drama studio, with training rooms and a place for groups to meet.
The Clifton Cinema opened in Bridge Street in 1937, and initially closed in 1983. It briefly reopened in 1987, but closed again the following year.
In the 1990s the building was taken over by soft furnishing chain Dunelm, but the shop closed in 2012.
The campaign to reopen the building as a cinema was backed by celebrities including Only Fools and Horses star John Challis and the playwright Mike Leigh, best known for 1970s comedy of manners Abigail's Party.
The HSBC bank closed in 2016, and group – which has 300 volunteers – secured a lease of four years and 11 months.
The project is supported by a £150,000 grant from Telford & Wrekin Council, as part of a scheme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Telford new town.
Last month it appointed Wellington-born Chris Ball, founder of the US movie production and distribution company Newmarket Films, and television and film producer Anne Beresford – also from the town – as directors.