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The Birks Cinema – journey of a grantholder

January 28, 2014

With a red carpet welcome and special appearance by its patron, actor Alan Cumming, the Birks Cinema officially reopened its doors on 20th November 2013. Originally a 1930s film theatre but closed for over 20 years, it was a moment the local community had dreamed of for some time.

Back in 2006 three friends set up the Friends of the Birks Cinema and began fundraising to purchase the disused building in the heart of Aberfeldy, Perthshire and refurbish it for 21st century film fans. With a donation from a private trust the group was able to engage a local architect to explore how the building could be converted which was followed in 2008 with a grant from our Investing in Ideas programme to carry out a feasibility study.

Birks Cinema Patron, Alan Cumming

Birks Cinema Patron, Alan Cumming

Then in 2011, after securing pots of money from other funders, the group found itself still requiring additional funding to make their idea a reality.

Successfully applying for and receiving £539,950 from our Growing Community Assets programme the group finally had the green light to get construction on The Birks Cinema  going. In just one year the 100 seat, state-of-the-art, 3D cinema underwent a full renovation finally opening its doors to the public in Spring 2013.  You can see how things developed in our special flickr gallery.

A community asset providing a thriving hub which all generations can enjoy, the Birks Cinema truly is the outcome of a hard working and inspirational local community. From three people in 2006 to some 450 members in 2013 the local community has been heavily involved throughout the project.

Following a seven-year journey the group members created a list of lessons learned during their community assets project. Below are just some of the key points they identified, which projects considering applying to our Growing Community Assets fund might want to consider:

  • Don’t underestimate the amount of work to be done – most people on our Committee are either fully retired or work part-time.
  • Create a team with specific responsibility for the success of the project, using a mixture of Committee members and interested volunteers.
  • Where possible search for new members with the skills that are missing from the current Committee.
  • Get the local community behind and involved in your project. Try to pull in volunteers to help have a presence at local events, shows, fairs and so forth, as the members of the committee may become over-extended doing
    The new Birks Cinema

    The new Birks Cinema

    this activity.

  • Do try to document what you do with the community e.g. numbers attending public meetings; surveys of community views; people attending focus group discussions etc. because you may need to provide evidence of community support and community views/needs for some funders.
  • Funders require reassurance that the operation resulting from their donations will be financial robust and sustainable; it may be appropriate to consider more than one income source.

You can find out more about the Birks Cinema and what it has to offer here . Equally, if you have a community asset that you would like to explore purchasing and developing, our Growing Community Assets programme may be able to help. The above lessons learned are a great starting point but if you need further support or want to run your project idea by us  you can email us for advice .

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