Save Our Cinema!

By Harwich Electric Palace Trust

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A little bit of context

The Electric Palace Cinema, Harwich, is one of the UK’s oldest Grade II* Listed cinemas and boasts a silent screen, original projection room, ornamental frontage and an open plan entrance lobby complete with paybox.

The cinema is currently undergoing renovation and restoration work which includes extensive repairs to the original plaster ceiling. The renovations will also include redecorating the auditorium, replacing electrical switchgear and enlarging the stage.

For the Electric Palace Cinema to continue operating it was necessary to carry out plaster ceiling renovation work to make the building safe: without it, the cinema could have been forced to close permanently.

Things were looking up, as the project received funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

But there’s a problem

At the end of January 2019, the renovation works were put on hold due to the discovery of asbestos debris in the roof space.

An asbestos survey of the roof space had been requested ahead of the works. However the restricted access to roof space made it impossible to carry out a full survey in advance of the works starting until after the entire outer layer of asbestos-containing roof slates had been removed. A restricted survey in the roof space had identified some asbestos fibres from pipe lagging used in a previous heating system. They were fixed in recent fibre glass insulation – which was also scheduled to be removed in the new works programme.

Consequently, work had to be halted when asbestos debris was found. The site closed until a suitable solution could be found and funding secured for the unexpected additional works. The contingency sum within the main project was insufficient to meet the additional costs, and it again looked like the Electric Palace Cinema could close for good.

Here’s what we’re doing about it

Historic England were invited to attend a meeting and they immediately recognised the gravity of the situation; in January, they put the cinema on the Heritage at Risk Register.

The Trust has been able to identify and obtain a substantial amount of funding to facilitate the asbestos removal works and allow the restoration and renovation to continue, though we are still short of the full amount.

We hope to see all work completed by summer 2020, when the Electric Palace Cinema will be reopened to the public for events and screenings.

With the assistance of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the renovated Electric Palace will be expanding its role in the town and surrounding area by increasing the range of:

  • Film Programming, general and specialist including exciting community projects.
  • Streaming of live entertainments such as live theatre, opera, ballet and film Q & A’s.
  • Live musical and Theatrical events both on the enhanced stage.

This will be achieved by increasing professional input into both:

  1. The named parts of the venue’s future advance programming and
  2. The day-by-day management

There will be several opportunities for anyone interested to find out more in the coming months..

We want to see the cinema thriving, restored as a piece of local and national heritage as well as an on-going lively cultural amenity of which Harwich can be proud.

You can join us

The location of the asbestos debris, the age and the nature of the decorative plaster ceiling make the removal process extremely complex. This is reflected in the additional cost of £650,000 for the asbestos removal.

Historic England has grant funded £300,000 while The National Lottery Heritage Fund has granted a further £245,000 uplift on their original £650,000 grant.

The remaining £70,000 is set to be raised by the Trust, and any sum beyond this will go towards refurbishing the cinema's seating.

The funding will allow the building to be removed from the Heritage at Risk register, once works are complete.

We cannot save our cinema and expand its role in the community without your generosity.

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Team Members

Michael Offord

Michael Offord

Sarah Odell