Let me introduce myself: my name is Vanessa Rankin and I am a postgraduate student studying a Masters of Arts, Festival and Cultural Management at Queen Margaret University.
Before undertaking my Masters I freelanced in the film industry in Brisbane, Australia following my graduation from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television. As you might be able to tell from my background, cinema, especially community and local cinema is a deep rooted passion of mine. As part of Regional Screen Scotland and Social Value Lab’s research into how audiences value the experience of local cinema-going, I am traveling Scotland to create case studies of each cinema by meeting and interviewing the cinema owners/managers that participated in the initial research. This research is not only taking me, as an Australian, to remote parts of Scotland; from Dumfries & Galloway to Stornoway to Stromness, it is enabling me to understand the various cinemas’ perspectives on their contribution, impact and value to the community that they exist in.
In an age where an increasing number of people have instantaneous access to entertainment through a plethora of digitized options – streaming, satellite television, electronic devices, cell phones – the idea of people making the effort to journey for many miles to gather together to watch the screening of a motion picture seems quaint. Especially if the people live far from bustling urban centres and the convenience of large multiplexes in areas that are seemingly hard to access. The interim findings of Regional Screen Scotland and the Social Value Lab research stands as testament to the powerful human desire for community and localised connections that the people of rural or remote areas continue to value film exhibition and the act of movie-going. Ultimately considerations such as social interaction, valorisation of the local and the pleasures of ‘going out’ remain important to audiences and their viewing decisions.
The beginning of my research – March 2016
Adam Smith Theatre
I started the next stage of this dynamic research in March at the exquisite Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy with Evan Henderson. I was wowed by the outside of the building which retains the same facade as when it first opened in 1899. The inside, however, has changed and is now a bustling multi-arts centre. A tour of the building showcased the 475 seat auditorium which when not being used for the diverse programme that includes comedy, dance, drama, music, and children’s theatre, it is transformed into a cinema showing current quality Hollywood films and a range of art-house, classic and children’s films. As both Evan and the audience survey reveal, the centre appears to be much respected in the community. Evan himself feels that the community wouldn’t be the same without it.
Following Adam Smith Theatre, I travelled to The Isle of Whithorn to meet the committee that runs the award winning community cinema: Machars Movies. The committee is made up of nine members. I had the pleasure of meeting four of them: Michael Marshall, Jeanette and Ian Duncanson and Ian Fraser. The wealth of knowledge and the backgrounds that this group of people had was humbling to me, a somewhat rookie in comparison. It was easy to see how they have built and sustained the community that they have at The Isle of Whithorn through their contagious enthusiasm. Machars movies was established in 2009 after an extension to their community hall and boasts the title of Scotland’s most southerly cinema. I was lucky enough to be able to join in on the set-up of the cinema for the evening screening and was able to see first hand the hard-work and time that these people give up to run Machars Movies.
Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre
My last interview in March was with Caroline Adams from Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre. Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre, like Adam Smith Theatre, is a multi-arts venue that is a vibrant, busy and well-loved hub for live performances, classes, exhibitions and of course films. The building was once a church, built in 1871. Recent renovations have blended the timeless architecture of the church with a modern touch and in 2004 it became the Borders newest arts centre. The centre evokes a sense of pride in the Peebles community and is a place where folk can go view not only blockbuster movies, but spectacular ‘event cinema’ such as Lucia Di Lammermorr presented by the Royal Opera House which is streamed via satellite.
I am excited to continue this research throughout April and May to develop a deeper understanding of the value of these cinemas and the people who run them. Watch this space.