We are raising funds for works needed get a full premises license for The Abbeydale Picture House, a Grade II listed cinema building in Sheffield. The license will enable us to host events in the building every day enabling us to pursue our goals of turning the building into a nationally recognised venue for the arts and eventually undertake a full restoration of the building.
Our team at CADS South Yorkshire has been managing the building for 2 years, but up until now have only been able to host licensed events using Temporary Entertainment Notices; temporary 1-day licenses of which we are limited to 15 per year per address. Because of this, we are severely limited in developing our events programme, as well as being restricted in how much revenue we can generate through bar sales.
WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
We have already applied to Sheffield City Council for the premises license which will enable us to properly reopen the building. But before the license can be granted, we need to ensure the building is up to modern safety standards. Features we need to update include a new fire alarm, improved fire escapes and disabled access, a new CCTV system, improved electrics, and some smaller safety works around the building such as new handrails on the stairs. We estimate the expenditure for Stage 1 of our plan (outlined in detail below) to be between £75k and £150k, with a significant chunk of this tied up in the hard-to-predict cost of rebuilding a rear access ramp. For the works on this stage we have already raised over £40k in grant funding, but as we continue to apply for funding opportunities, we feel it’s also time for us to turn to our community and ask for your help.
In spite of licensing restrictions, we have still managed to host a wide variety of events with a range of partners. Since taking on the building we have hosted cinema screenings, high profile live music events, theatre productions, comedy events, antiques markets, beer festivals, even pro wrestling events. Over 70,000 people have visited the building under our watch and by gaining a premises license, we can build on this track record and develop an exciting and comprehensive programme of activities for years to come. Furthermore, the extra revenue we generate through bar sales will enable us to generate significant funds we can invest in the ongoing renovation and restoration of this iconic building. We want to make the Abbeydale Picture House an exciting venue for everyone to enjoy and properly restore the building to its former glory. We cannot achieve this without gaining the premises license and this is why we are asking for your help.
A HISTORIC ICON - About the Abbeydale Picture House
Few Sheffielders will be unaware of The Abbeydale Picture House. This grand former cinema is prominently situated on one of the main routes into the city, and stands not just as a memorial to the bygone era of ‘silver screen’ entertainment but also a symbol of the huge untapped potential for new vibrancy in the local area, not to mention the cultural and economic benefit to the community, if it could be restored.
The Abbeydale Picture House first opened in 1920 and features a unique blend of Art Deco and Arts & Crafts architecture, now recognised as of national interest, and protected by its Grade II Listed status. It began life at the advent of the “talkies”, when hundreds of local families would make the short walk from the surrounding streets at 2pm on a Saturday to pay homage to star-studded movies from the golden age of Hollywood. Unfortunately, by the 1970s, the Cinema trade had shifted forever into purpose-built, city centre multiplexes and the Abbeydale Picture House fell out of favour. Following a few incongruous decades in use as a furniture showroom and a snooker hall, the 1990’s and 2000’s saw the building sat mostly empty and underused, falling ever further into disrepair, home only to the local pigeon population.
In 2005 it was bought by The Friends of The Abbeydale Picture House, with help from high-profile backers including Sir Michael Palin and Peter Stringfellow. The Friends Of Group managed to reverse a lot of the building’s disrepair, clearing out several tonnes of pigeon droppings and even hosting several events in the building. Sadly, despite their hard work, the Friends Of group were unable to make the building’s operations break even. Unable to keep up with mortgage repayments, the building was eventually repossessed by the bank.
The building was then purchased at auction by retired Sheffield businessman and climber Phil Robbins, with an agenda to bring this much-loved asset back into use as a community asset. Pouring his own money and time into the building, Phil managed to deal with the most pressing problem – the enormously leaky roof – and also successfully brought in the team behind the Picture House Social bar and venue into the basement of the building. But Phil knew that the restoration of the rest of the building was a monumental task that would take many, many years to complete, and needed a viable strategy for being well managed and sustainable in the short to medium term…
ENTER CADS - WHO WE ARE
CADS South Yorkshire is a grassroots Sheffield-based registered charity who are well used to operating on a shoe-string budget. For 10 years, CADS South Yorkshire has worked tirelessly taking on derelict buildings and against all the odds, bringing them back into use again – as studios for artists, bands and all manner of creative businesses, all the while bringing employment, activity, and cultural vibrancy into places that were devastated by post-industrial decline. A locally based registered charity, we have a track record of breathing new life into buildings in disrepair.
To date we have successfully managed 23 buildings, mostly on temporary leases, and currently manage 5 other sites in Sheffield which house studio spaces, music venues, exhibition spaces and more. We have the contacts, experience and relationships with relevant arts, culture and heritage funders. We have the right community-oriented structures and mindsets to be able to balance social, cultural, and commercial priorities.
The Abbeydale Picture House’s landlord Phil contacted us after hearing our track record with other difficult buildings around the city when he was looking for someone who could successfully manage the Abbeydale Picture House. He began negotiating with us in 2016, and by 2017 we had signed a 25 Year Lease on the building, with a clear and commonly agreed mission:
“To, through the renovation of the Abbeydale Picture House, create a nationally recognised venue for culture and the arts, which also reflects, supports and enriches the cultural diversity of the local community.”
Over the last 2 years, we have gradually brought the Abbeydale Picture House to the centre of our operations; channelling revenue from studio hire generated in our other buildings towards the renovations and improvement of Abbeydale Picture House. Whilst this arrangement has been successful so far, we feel it is time to get the building to a stage where it can stand on its own two feet financially and flourish as a community-led arts venue Sheffield can be proud of.
Since taking on the building we have managed to host more events and activities than have taken place in the previous 20 years, with a more diverse range of artistic media than has ever been seen in the building. With the addition of a premises license we can continue to develop our work in the building as an arts venue all whilst making further improvements to the building itself. In 2020, this beautiful building will celebrate its 100th birthday, and we want to ensure that the building can continue to function for the next 100 years.
WHAT’S THE PLAN? – LET’S GET EXCITED!
We’re well aware that we have signed up to a mammoth project. It will likely take millions of pounds and many more years of effort to fully realise our ambitions for the building. But the early signs are encouraging – we have been overwhelmed so far with positive feedback from visitors, performers and events producers, and have successfully generated interest from key players such as The National Trust and The Heritage Lottery Fund. We feel this is an extremely positive start considering the scale of the investment it would take for the major restoration works. But before we can look at large scale restoration funding, the building has to establish financial sustainability.
For our first 2 years of occupying the Abbeydale Picture House, we have heavily subsidised the building's running costs and focussed on making sure the critical parts of the building were dry, clean and safe enough for public use. We have carried out minor renovations, including the installation of new electrical infrastructure and basic toilets. We have evicted the pigeons and brought a number of formerly disused spaces into play, raising a small revenue from these. Most importantly, we have partnered with a selection of excellent local and national events producers to put on a limited programme of high quality events, attracting visitors from around the country.
Achieving all of this has involved us raising and investing over £80k into the building, and we continue to subsidise its high running and maintenance costs through our trading in other buildings. However, the previous two years in operation have shown us without doubt that we can make the building work, and we are eager to up the ante on what we can offer event organisers, attendees and our local community.
Therefore, we have devised a 3-stage strategy for taking the project forward:
Stage 1: A Fully Licensed Venue (2019-2020). We have already applied for the premises license which will enable us to properly reopen the building. Before the license can be granted, we need to ensure the building is up to modern safety standards. Features we need to update include a new fire alarm, improved fire escapes/disabled access, a new CCTV system, improved electrics, and some smaller safety works around the building such as new handrails on the stairs. We estimate the expenditure for Stage 1 to be between £75k and £150k, with a significant chunk of this tied up in the hard-to-predict cost of rebuilding a rear access ramp. For the works on this stage we have already raised over £40k in grant funding, so meeting our goal with this crowdfunder will really help us get close to obtaining the license.
Stage 2: An Excellent Venue (2020-2021). Following on from Stage 1, we will then be adding further layers of quality and comfort, complemented by funds raised from the additional events and bar sales made possible by the premises license. Key spend areas here include developing the backstage fly tower area into a 200-capacity, standing room venue; improved audio-visual equipment for the auditorium; heating facilities; and further upgrades to toilets. We will also investigate the possibility of reopening the balcony in the auditorium, which will increase the main room capacity from 400 to 700.
Stage 3: Restoration (2021-2024). Providing that the prior stages are on their way to being achieved, we can look towards large scale restoration funding in 2020. By 2021 we should be in a position to commission extensive building works and eventually, see the building properly restored to its former glory and able to carry on long into the future.
Why Crowdfund Us? / WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
The Abbeydale Picture House is an iconic building, and one steeped in significance for so many Sheffielders. We have yet to run an event in the building where we don’t get an audience member come up to one of our team, wanting to reminisce and share their memories.
‘I remember the queues going up the road when I was a child.’
‘My dad used to come here to watch the news.’
‘I met my husband here.’
CADS South Yorkshire have the vision to keep the spirit of this building alive, the passion and expertise to restore it once more to its grand former glory, and the dream of bringing it up to the 21st century with high-grade equipment, accessible and comfortable facilities and diverse, modern events programming.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If you can donate anything to our campaign, we will be eternally grateful. You will be making history by helping us to bring back this amazing building and community hub back to life.
Have a look at the rewards on the right – we will be adding more as the campaign goes on. We want you to feel a part of this long process, and we want to thank you for your generosity in whatever you are able to give. We are in it for the long haul, and we hope you are too.
CAN’T DONATE TODAY? TELL YOUR FRIENDS!
We know this building is important to a huge variety of people, and not all of those people are going to have access to the internet or social media. Please, please share this link all over your social media, but also spread the word to your friends, family, neighbours, community networks and beyond. CADS is run by a very small team, so will take all the help we can get in shouting about the work we want to do and how you can be a part of it.
We also welcome contact from anyone, especially if you are local, who would like to volunteer their time in any way to help the campaign – leafleting, running market stalls, admin support, marketing and PR – we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch at [email protected]
Thank you so much for your time in reading this. Keep your eyes peeled for further updates throughout the campaign!
All the best,
The CADS team