SURF Awards 2013

SURF 2013 Awards
December 2013

Community Led Regeneration Category  – Oban Phoenix Cinema

What is the aim of the project?

To respond to a local ‘save our cinema’ campaign by reopening a popular and unique cultural venue as a community run facility.

Where is it taking place?

Oban Phoenix Cinema is located in central Oban and serves the wider north Argyll & Bute region.

What has been achieved?

The cinema was purchased by the community in 2011 after a local campaign to save the building, which closed the previous year, gained extensive support from the local community and further afield – including Dame Judi Dench and Robbie Coltrane. Those in Oban, Lorne and nearby islands faced major challenges in accessing mainstream cultural activities, and with the cinema closed, a 200 mile round trip was required to the nearest alternative in Glasgow or Inverness. The cinema reopened in August 2012 as a community run social enterprise offering a high class cinema experience. In its first year, attendances have exceeded 50,000 and the cinema is among the highest average attendance as a proportion of population across the UK. With £400k investment in the last two years, the turnover for year one was an impressive £139k, with a surplus of £12k. It also employs nine people and has a bank of 80 local volunteers. On top of being a successful cinema and contributing to the town’s economic development and tourism, the initiative has a strong social focus. There has been particular success in responding to wider community needs by running a youth volunteering programme and providing arts & social opportunities for older people.

Who is running it?

A committee of volunteers manage the cinema, which was purchased on behalf of the community with the assistance of loan finance from Social Investment Scotland, a grant from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and significant community fundraising. Everybody in the community is allowed to be a member of the social enterprise. There are currently 81 members, who democratically appoint Directors at the AGM.

Why did the judging panel like it?

The judges were impressed with the dedication of the core community group, which used its mixed skills base to garner support for the re-birth of the cinema using a mixed funding package. They were clear that the cinema makes a considerable contribution to joint efforts to help make Oban a more attractive place to live in and to visit. The range of services offered by the venue is substantial, and provides much-needed support networks for local residents.