Redfield Cinema: Campaign to save hidden venue receives a boost
Councillors have backed a campaign to save a former cinema in Redfield from being turned into flats.
Members of all four political groups on Bristol City Council spoke in support of the fight to save the disused cinema on Church Road after a petition with nearly 9,000 signatures was presented at City Hall on Tuesday (November 7).
Labour councillor for St George Troopers Hill, Fabian Breckels, who signed the petition to Save Redfield Cinema told the full council meeting it would be “criminal” for Bristol to lose another heritage filmhouse.
The disused art deco cinema sits hidden from view behind St George’s Hall, a Wetherspoon pub on Church road which closed in September and has been sold to a private developer.
Landrose, which claims to build ‘outstanding affordable homes’, has said its plans for the site include housing and retail and do not necessarily exclude the possibility of a cinema. Those plans are believed to comprise 40 studios and a small office space.
But the group of locals behind the petition want the cinema excluded from the housing development and brought back to use.
They are developing their own set of plans that would see the cinema become part of a new community hub, with an event space and pop-up kitchens, and housing above.
Last week, they received news from the council that their application to list the building as an asset of community value had been successful.
This means if the owner lists the building for sale within the next five years, the community has a six-month period during which they have the right to bid to buy it.
Petition signatories now want the council to facilitate discussions between the owners, developers, the community and campaigners to save the cinema, the meeting of full council heard.
Presenting the petition, which attracted more than enough signatures to trigger a council debate, Rachael Groom from Save Redfield Cinema told the meeting the campaigners’ plans represented a “bold new cinematic vision” that would act as a “real cultural connector” for the many different communities in East Bristol.
She said the group had received offers from social impact investors which would allow them to make the neighbourhood cinema more accessible than most and test new membership and ‘pay what you can’ models.
“We know that housing is important, we really do,” Ms Groom said. “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.
“A unity cinema must become a reality to save the soul of the community,” she said, quoting Ron Merchant, father of Hanham-born comedian Stephen Merchant.
Cllr Breckels said: “If this site is lost to a purely housing development – cluster flats proposed, so that’s basically a stack of houses in multiple occupation – that would be building back worse, not building back better.
“Bristol has lost too much of its cinema heritage already and it would be criminal to let this survivor, which is in surprisingly good condition, go now.”
Cllr Breckels also called for a city-wide policy to support and protect community and neighbourhood cinemas.
This call was backed by Green councillor for Easton, Barry Parsons, who spoke in support of the petition along with Conservative councillor for Bishopsworth, Richard Eddy, and Liberal Democrat councillor for Hengrove and Whitchurch Park, Sarah Classick.
Cllr Eddy warned that the owner could convert the building into flats, despite it being listed as an asset of community value.
The council is expecting to receive a planning application to change the use of St George’s Hall, but none had been submitted as of Monday, December 6, he said.
The petition and councillors’ comments were passed to city mayor Marvin Rees and the relevant cabinet member for consideration and a response.