When the petition to Save Redfield Cinema reached 3000 local signatures in October 2021 we ‘won’ the right to have the petition introduced with a five minute speech to a FUll Council meeting including the elected mayor.
I had been the sole voice of the campaign up until then and was keen for someone else to speak. Rachael read my words.
“Mr Mayor, councillors. We’re here to introduce a petition of almost 9,000 signatures to save an existing cinema in the back of St George’s Hall, on Church Rd in Redfield.
Over the last few months of campaigning we have found that whenever you say the word ‘cinema’, people either think of an expensive multiplex or they get nostalgic for the good old days.
Well we are a little nostalgic – that is true. The stories of many a film and audience are embedded within the 100 year old walls of the former Granada.
But what we’re proposing isn’t tied to the past, we don’t just want to reopen an old, traditional cinema. We look to the future and propose a bold, new, cinematic vision that generates measurable social impact for the community and city of Bristol.
One that is economically viable and sustainable.
Neighbourhood cinemas are on the rise all over the country – These new cinemas programme with and for their communities bringing old and new audiences with them.
We’ve attracted Social impact funding, which will allow us to push accessibility boundaries further than most venues. It will allow us to test membership models and a pay-what-you-can entry policy to ensure that no-one is excluded from participating in culture based on their income.
We’d put systems in place to include the unbanked, and work with our board to diminish language and cultural barriers to ensure this is a place that everyone can afford, everyone can access and everyone feels safe and welcome.
The current design of the building also offers itself to live events, music, stand up, spoken word, conferences, workshops… and food!
Underneath the existing cinema and event space there’s a large kitchen and dining area.
We would support pop ups looking to take the next step towards a permanent kitchen. A rolling ever changing menu, reflective of the area’s food heritage.
And then we think of the meetings and conversations that could happen in the dining area, before or after a film. This space has the potential, in the words of Watershed’s Mark Cosgrove, to be a real cultural connector.
The joy of food, film, music, stories and conversation weave themselves through divisions of class, heritage, identity, sexuality, age, faith and income.
It’s hard to imagine a better way to create understanding between communities than meeting to share food and stories, experiences, laughter and conversations – all with a cup of tea.
Despite the already dense population there is nowhere like this yet in East Bristol.
We have no cultural spaces to proactively share the experience of our varied lives and heritage.
There are no places for people from different backgrounds to be regularly brought together.
And I doubt anyone in this room believes we live in a society where division is DEcreasing.
We should be trying everything to build bridges.
Livable and environmentally resilient neighbourhoods call for ‘20 minute cities’ – that’s walking distance of Lawrence Hill, Easton, Redfield, St George, Barton Hill, Troopers Hill even – if you’re quick.
Last week, the community right to bid team agreed with us that the site should indeed be listed as an asset of community value and we thank them for their work on that.
This important status validates our next steps for meaningful community consultation.
We’re excited to work with the surrounding communities and find out what we can do with this once-in-a-location opportunity. Making space in the organising teams for people who might normally back away for fear their voices would not be genuinely heard and valued.
So when we say cinema – that is what we mean.
Part of our ask from the petition was that councillors and the Mayor support the Asset of Community Value application.
The other part was that you facilitate discussion between the owners, developers, the community and ourselves to ensure that this space is not lost.
We ask that this is meaningful, that agreements are binding and that any consultations are not a tick-box exercise.
Councillors, Mr Mayor. We know that housing is important, we really do, but there are half a dozen genuinely derelict sites on Church road and there has been a lot of recent development in the immediate area.
There is some housing on the site already and our plan does add to that. We will of course be looking for genuinely affordable models to deliver this.
The people who have been here all their lives, the people who have moved in – we all need somewhere to go when it rains.
We have shared a draft of our plan with you all via democratic services. We have a balanced budget for running costs, a commitment to building a diverse representative board, huge local support, national and global attention and crucially social impact investors who have expressed an interest in buying the site or working with the owners to make this a reality.
I’ll give the final words to Ron Merchant. Father of one of Bristol’s famous sons and childhood visitor to the Granada cinema. This morning he posted on social media
“The Unity Cinema must become a reality to save the soul of the community”Ron Merchant
Mr Mayor, Councillors. Your support makes it much, much more likely to happen.”
We received a huge round of applause followed by substantial verbal supporting statements from Labour, the Green Party, Conservative and Liberal Democrats as well as written support from Marvin Rees, elected mayor of Bristol.
The campaign continues at www.saveredfieldcinema.com