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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Storm Newton

Group that revived historic cinema eyes further restoration

The arts charity which has reopened an Art-Deco cinema in north Liverpool has told the ECHO further restoration of the building is on the horizon.

The Gaumont cinema on Oakfield Road in Anfield first opened its doors in 1931 and closed in November 1960. The building itself has been home to arts charity Liverpool Lighthouse since 1998.

The group has worked to reopen the space as a cinema with the launch set to take place later today (Saturday, 3 December 2022). Tani Omideyi is chair of the LJM International network of Ministries and Charities, which includes Liverpool Lighthouse.

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He told the ECHO his church bought the "derelict" building almost 30 years ago and raised £1.5m to restore it. Tani added: "When we moved in in the 90s it was totally different - properties boarded up and dereliction. We had a concept in our minds about what we'd do to engage with the community.

"We were aware of the history, which was really exciting for us, but the immediate need at the time was not for a cinema. In our hearts was always the desire to bring it back. I think it would be scandalous if we didn't - it's such a beautiful building."

Inside the cinema's auditorium ahead of its launch (Storm Newton)

During the restoration, Lighthouse has been able to salvage some of the historic cinema boxes and is now planning further work on the building.

Tani said: "The boxes were collapsing but we salvaged half of them. We were determined to keep something. It's robust and beautiful - you come in and you feel a presence. There's one old ticket office and we're thinking what we can do with it."

A number of vintage boxes were salvaged during the project (Storm Newton)

He added: "We've been here now over 20 years and we've had thousands of people through the doors. It's really experienced a lot of wear and tear so we need to embark on major structural work.

"The front of the building for instance - there's an entrance with stairs and that's where people would have stood waiting to come into the cinema. It's now been bricked up but we're working with an architect to bring that back again. It'll have that theatre look about it. We can also bring the ticket box back."

Tani is now hoping to restore the Art-Deco entrance of the building, which has long been bricked up (Storm Newton)

Rebecca Ross-Williams is creative director at Liverpool Lighthouse and spoke about the importance of the cinema to the Anfield community who have "few places to go".

"It's only recently there's even a café on Oakfield Road that's open during the day," she said. "There's a real lack of spaces for people to go and dwell, especially where you can engage with people without spending money.

"Anfield has been so underserved in terms of arts and culture for generations. But there are enough elders that still remember coming to the cinema as children."

However, Rebecca highlighted the cinema is just "one strand" of Lighthouse's work: "Our aim is to be a creative sanctuary and use arts as a tool to improve mental health and wellbeing. The cinema is an accessible first step for people to engage."

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