26 Jul

URGENT: #SaveLightHouse Appeal is launched

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IMG_9640PRESS AND PUBLIC STATEMENT BY LIGHT HOUSE CINEMA AND CAFÉ BAR WOLVERHAMPTON

AN URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE THE BLACK COUNTRY’S KEY CULTURAL VENUE

26 July 2018

Following last week’s announcement that Light House in Wolverhampton, The Black Country’s only independent cinema, is in danger of closure unless significant investment is sourced, the venue has issued the following statement of information to inform the press and public of its current situation and to launch a campaign to save Light House. It outlines how, instead of a campaign to trying to save something that will ultimately fail, that this is actually a call to save a thriving venue, bucking the trends of growth, and that without outside investment and support, independent charities and cultural venues like this cannot survive.

The current situation
Light House Cinema and Café Bar, Wolverhampton, is in danger of closure in the following months, due to a withdrawal of funding and subsequent cash flow crisis. Ironically, the centre has cut costs to a minimum and increased public awareness, resulting in 12% increased admissions over the past 12 months, incredible in the current climate and in this area. It has scope to keep this level of increase over the coming years, given the right amount of backing.

About the venue
Light House was created as an independent cinema in 1986, moving into its home in The Chubb Buildings, a former Victorian lock factory in 1991. It is the cultural hub of Wolverhampton – as well as showing current mainstream films on its two screens, it showcases the best of cinema around the world as well as documentaries and live screenings. It is used for conferences for both the creative sector, corporate, NHS and political events, weddings and film launches. It is used regularly for broadcast and media, from music video filming to live debates for Channel 4 News. It’s a community venue, not a typical cinema. On any given day you’ll find free language cafes in the bar – from people learning Portuguese from each other to the ‘Queen’s English Language Café’, helping non-native speakers learn English phrases in a social setting through to coffee mornings for the deaf community.

Health
Light House promotes and encourages wellbeing in the city, both mentally and physically. Regular meeting groups include ‘Singing for Lung Health’ and ‘Brain Tumour Support’. Central to its ethos is its mission to combat loneliness and isolation. Their midweek Tuesday and Wednesday matinees at just £4.50, plus a ‘pay what you want’ tea and coffee station is a massive hit with the retired, widowed and socially isolated, whether they are showing Mamma Mia : Here we go again or a limited release indie film. People meet as groups or come on their own week after week, knowing they’ll find a volunteer or member of staff to talk to, a friendly face and a cup of tea. People keep in touch with the world through latest releases and chatting to people outside of their usual lives. Pensioners, the LGBT community, students, artists and families meet and enjoy a level of interaction and welcome that is rare in the modern world. Singalongs are regular and well attended, be it in the cinema with a classic film or group singing in the glass covered cobbled courtyard.

An ageing audience
Light House recognises that they, and the British film industry, have an ageing population to thank for increased cinema attendance in the era of on-demand home entertainment and this is reflected in the programming of particular films, plus a clear printed programme for information as well as online. Staff and volunteer ushers are particularly chosen for their ability to interact with and understand older audiences. No confusing ticket machines, no large hot dog and popcorn stands – more a civilised cake and cappuccino in Lock Works Café or a glass of wine to take into a film.

Disabilities
Light House has been at the forefront of Visual and Hearing impairment film experiences for decades. Technical and cinema manager Jas Kapur has advised the industry on the use of audio description and subtitles for years, resulting in him being given recognition of the ‘100 Masters’ title, which awards Black Country people at the top level of their craft. Deaffest, the UK’s national deaf film festival, is held most years at the venue, with deaf visitors coming to Wolverhampton from all over the world to attend.

Supporting Local Artists
Visitors can see an art exhibition while they wait for a film  – Light House has two galleries featuring local artists, students’ work and photographers. Major exhibitions such as Willard Wigan’s micro-sculpture exhibition have taken place here, for which he created two special sculptures, one of Noddy Holder and one of Shakespeare for his 400 year celebrations, both featuring in national and international news. The cinema regularly supports local film makers through low cost equipment hire and hosting screenings. It hosts a gift shop for local designer/makers.

Interaction
Light House works alongside other venues and cultural activities in the city to help boost the visitor economy and work with common themes and festivals such as the Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival and Funny Things Comedy Festival. It is the home of the University of Wolverhampton’s Film Degree and hosts popular Open Mic and Interactive DJ nights.  Local film fanatics have held their legendary quiz in the bar for over a decade. It welcomes school groups, youth mental health screenings, foster children & carers and special needs groups. New parents can bring babies to monthly ‘Baby Film Club’ screenings of current films. Recent live comedy shows such as ‘Gary Powndland’ ‘The Lost Hancocks’ and ‘Comedy with Cake’ bring new faces into the cinema, introducing the facilities to new audiences.  Last week the centre was awarded the ‘Community Contributor Award’ at the city’s WIRE Awards.

The Film Industry
Light House is well regarded in the industry, both by distributers and film makers, many of which come to give Q&As. It was helped by the BFI to create a British Film Passport, with which customers receive bonuses for attending British produced films, meaning audiences are actively choosing to support the British film industry. It was one of the early adopters of live satellite screenings and created its own ‘Thinema’ brand, a term now widely used by customers to describe theatrical live cinema content. Although customers crowdfunded to allow the cinema to go fully digital 6 years ago, it has kept its 16 and 35mm projection equipment and is able to show films in their original formats to film students. Light House pioneered the Film Studies degree programme in the 1990’s in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton which has enabled thousands of students to engage with their specialist field of film in the environment that film is meant to be seen. On a big screen and not in a classroom or a DVD.

The Business Plan
Following near closure in 2015 following a huge loss in public funding, Light House developed a 5 year plan, which included cutting staff hours drastically, relying more on public help for marketing, more effective use of facilities, showing more family and mainstream films and a greater push for sponsorship. The small team, with only two full time staff, worked incredibly hard and bucked the national trend, achieving growth much higher than anticipated. Attendance this year has risen by 12% , with 8000 extra tickets sold. Local companies such as health insurance company Paycare have donated generously, however without continued support of a high level, even the continued expected growth will not replace the public money lost.
Light House, as an independent cinema, is significantly different to a mainstream commercial model. Its economies of scale and benefits are vastly different, with no central large scale company marketing, out of town free parking or new-build, low maintenance buildings. A unique venue brings people into the city and gives them an essential choice and vastly different experience from the chain cinema offering, but it has costs associated with it. This is why additional funding is vital to success.

The impact of losing Light House
It is well documented that the future of Britain’s towns and cities will not be in retail but leisure. As customers turn more to online shopping, cities will depend on pop-up shops, experiences, cultural hubs and festivals to keep centres alive. People naturally gravitate to public areas and buildings where they can meet like-minded people, interact and enjoy themselves. Light House is already ticking all boxes in providing these services – an amazing programme of well-priced film and culture, a unique and creative hub to meet, create and do business and a caring environment in which a customer’s wellbeing is considered in every step of the planning process. It is situated right next to the city’s train and bus stations, with a handy link by tram to areas such as West Bromwich and Birmingham.  This is in a city not normally associated with cultural awareness – Wolverhampton is cited in polls as being one of the most deprived areas in the country, but also one of the fastest growing. With the city’s Civic Halls currently closed with no sign of reopening, there will be very few affordable entertainment options left in the city if Light House closes. The cinema team are on the brink of launching a youth initiative to push cinema attendance to the 15-30 market – a segment of the community completely overlooked in planning the local visitor economy. Testimonials given by groups supporting the centre’s recent Community award (see below) show how passionately groups feel about this rare resource. For example:

“Light House has never been just a place to go in Wolverhampton. In many ways it IS Wolverhampton, reflecting in its varied offer and programme of activities the full breadth of the cultural offer in our City.” “We would be lost without Light House. Light House isn’t just a destination, it truly encapsulates the ethos of the city and is a beacon of light for like-minded folks in the region. Kimberly Forlini-Softley – Film Quiz organiser”

The next step – how public support can save Light House

This campaign needs swift and wide-reaching action. This story is not unique to Light House and is a story heard time and time again across the country. Without public or major corporate funding, Light House and hundreds of similar independent venues all over the UK are closing. A future without beacons of light such as this is bleak and we are determined to campaign as loudly as we can to stop this happening.  We are not a ‘failing company’, we are growing, but like a museum, stately home or heritage site, we need extra support to fulfil what the public desperately needs.

HOW TO HELP

Members of the press: Please film us, report our story, interview us, share our social media #SaveLightHouse, discuss and debate the need for community hubs and help us spread the word.

Members of the public: Share this story with your friends, talk about us, visit us, use our facilities, share our social media #SaveLightHouse, speak to influential people, donate what you can.

Donations:Personal donations can be made directly to the cinema by cash or cheque payable to Light House Media Centre,  or online via https://localgiving.org/charity/lovelighthouse/.
Companies, individuals and organisations wanting to discuss sponsorship and partnership can speak to the CEO Kelly Jeffs on 01902 716 055 or on email kelly@light-house.co.uk

Visit Us
In the coming week (27 July) we continue with Mamma Mia: Here we go again, Mary Shelley and the new Thomas the Tank Engine Film – Big World! Big Adventures. You’ll be made very welcome. Maybe join us for a light meal and take a bar drink in with you – this all helps and you’ll have a great time!
www.light-house.co.uk

Press enquiries should be made to Julie Rennison on julie@cohesionltd.co.uk/ 07986 574 250

Thank you.

LIGHT HOUSE TESTIMONIALS GIVEN AS SUPPORT FOR THE RECENT WIRE AWARDS NOMINATION, (COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTOR PRIZE AWARDED TUE 17 JULY 2018)

There is something very special about Wolverhampton’s independent cinema Light House. It is a values driven organisation, a registered charity and part of a vibrant voluntary and community sector in Wolverhampton; which means that it is run by invested citizens and residents of the city and as a regular visitor I value it greatly. It is something that Wolverhampton can feel really proud of to have this iconic arts venue in our city centre. It feels both a welcoming and cultured experience to go along and watch a film or attend one of the many events. From the diverse communities meeting in the café to Thinema evenings, there is something for everyone. If you want to see a film, always think ‘Light House first!’  Saffi Price – Deputy Chief Executive, Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

Light House is a real boon for the live literature scene in Wolverhampton, and is the home of the city’s poetry events. It already hosts the long-running and highly regarded City Voices each month, and when we wanted a friendly, accessible venue for our ‘Broadsheet Live’ event, it was the obvious place to go. A beautiful building, run by a committed team, and an incredibly valuable cultural asset for Wolverhampton. Steve Pottinger – Poet http://stevepottinger.co.uk

Interfaith Wolverhampton has for several years collaborated with the Light House in arranging a fund raising event at their venue. This involves using their wide-ranging facilities to provide drinks and refreshments, followed by the showing of a film to our members and supporters, as well as Asylum seekers and homeless members of the public for whom our supporters purchase tickets. The film for this year’s event, which took place in April was Victoria and Abdul and was recommended by the Light House. The film was entirely appropriate for our very mixed audience and proved a great success. All the feedback we received from participants has been entirely positive. Such appreciation would not be possible without the warm support and dedicated service of the Light House staff. The highly varied group of people attending the function immediately feel welcome and nothing is too much for the staff in planning the event and ensuring that everything is laid out appropriately. At Interfaith Wolverhampton, we really feel privileged to be working with the Light House since we share a common vision of doing whatever we can to make Wolverhampton a truly friendly City, where locals and people from all over the world and from differing circumstances feel welcome and are truly valued. As a dynamic and hugely committed venue for the arts in the centre of Wolverhampton, the Light House has for many years been a real beacon of light. They richly deserve to be rewarded with a WIRE award. Erik Pearce – Interfaith Wolverhampton

For many years I have enjoyed attending events and films at the Light House.It is a beautiful venue with historic significance; its situation in the centre of Wolverhampton and close to the train and bus stations makes it easily accessed by public transport and it enjoys limited parking on site and ample parking just nearby.It is a beacon of culture and entertainment with its varied and developing programme enjoyed by so many local people.  There are the films, of course, the exhibitions, the language cafes, the live cinema showings of opera, ballet, plays, live music – the list goes on. It is the only independent cinema in the Black Country – and much more.
In addition, as chair of Wolverhampton Amnesty International, I have worked with Jas (Cinema and Operations Manager) and Kelly (CEO) to put on events. It is always a pleasure working with them and their team and enjoying their commitment to serving their community.
The people who work for the Light House are always welcoming and friendly. It is a unique part of the life of our city, surviving in a time of great austerity because of the staff’s dedication and imaginative response to the challenges. Ann Moran – Light House audience member and event’s organiser

I am a member of a group of six elderly students of Spanish.  We originally went to a Spanish class at the Adult Education Centre in Old Hall Street, Wolverhampton.  Three years ago foreign language classes were drastically reduced due to funding/need for extra classes teaching English to foreign students.  Our group desperately wanted to continue our studies and we decided we would try and find a room to hire.  Our main criteria was a central location, (as we all travel by bus) and a reasonable charge.  I tried several venues to no avail.  As a cinema goer I thought I would ask at the Lighthouse cinema.  Kelly Jeffs, the Chief Executive, very kindly offered us a room for two hours a week for a reasonable amount.  All the staff there are marvellous, very welcoming and helpful.  Refreshments are available from the cafe.  The room is set out with tables and chairs and a flip chart, everything we reasonably need for our studies. Light House is a few hundred yards from Wolverhampton Bus Station so is ideal for our group. Light House has been a beacon of light to us and we hope to continue to use it for many years to come.  Margaret Holmes – Spanish Language group event’s organiser

Light House is a welcoming and attractive space where artists, writers and cinema enthusiasts can mingle comfortably. In the last year or so it has been possible to put on a number of live literature events, not always an easy thing, in the main gallery with great success and growing numbers. The staff are always helpful and go out of their way, in fact, to assist. Lock Works Café/Bar is a great resource for snacks and drinks. Always thoughtful and professional, the management deserves every success. And the variety and excellence of the items in the shop is a draw in itself. Simon Fletcher – Organiser of ‘City Voices’ events.

I have been leading a singing for lung health group at Light House since September 2015. From its inception, Kelly and all the staff at Light House have been incredibly supportive of the group. As well as the regular weekly things such as making sure the nicest chairs are available for the members of the group to sit comfortably on, to bringing jugs of water and cups, they have also helped us make a video for a Crowdfunding campaign which enabled the group to continue beyond the first 12-weeks which had been funded by the British Lung Foundation. It now feels like our group is a solid part of the regular weekly activities at Light House. Indeed, when it came to choosing a name for the group, everyone wanted to have the ‘Light House’ featured in the name, so the group is now affectionately known as “Light House Larks’!
The group has grown from initially about 10 members, to around 20+ each week. Several of the members of the group that have been attending for a while have reported back to me that their spirometry tests – which test for lung function – have improved and their GP’s can only attribute it to the fact that they have been coming to the singing group. We do breathing exercises each week and work on posture and voice warms ups, as well as singing songs. Carl Hodson – Singing for Lung Health Facilitator

Light House has never been just a place to go in Wolverhampton. In many ways it IS Wolverhampton, reflecting in its varied offer and programme of activities the full breadth of the cultural offer in our City. The Kimberly Kenobi Film & TV Quiz considers Light House its home, we have done for over 11 years now. We are a community of film nerds, cinephiles and pop culture junkies who meet up once a month to enjoy the surroundings of Light House and engage in filmic debate. Light House has always provided us with a venue to share our interests, quiz and, most importantly, have fun together. We would be lost without Light House. Light House isn’t just a destination, it truly encapsulates the ethos of the city and is a beacon of light for like-minded folks in the region. Kimberly Forlini-Softley – Film Quiz organiser

Wolverhampton LGBT+ Alliance (The Alliance) is a network of organisations, businesses and community groups that have come together to improve the health, wellbeing, equality and inclusivity of LGBT people living and working in Wolverhampton. Since we were first founded in May 2017, Light House has proven itself to be a valuable and most welcome ally. From donating cinema tickets to The Alliance’s monthly LGBT+ quiz nights to screening an array of LGBT+ themed films, the Light House has gone above and beyond to demonstrate its commitment to equality and the celebration of diversity in all its forms. More recently, they have agreed to host an Away Day for the Alliance, for the purposes of bringing its members closer together and to help us realise our long-term aspirations.. Ben Howley, Chair of Wolverhampton LGBT+ Alliance

Light House is a fantastic cinema offering a brilliant range of interesting films.  I regularly visit as a movie goer.  But Light House is so much more than that.  It is a stunning building architecturally and a hub of creativity, with an amazing range of activities going on.  As a writer I often use the cafe as my ‘office’ in the daytime; it’s a friendly space and the staff are very welcoming.  As a promoter of poetry events I’ve also used Light House for activities and performances that I’m organising as it’s accessible (both in terms of disabled access and its locality to excellent transport links).  Plus the management go the extra mile to support people who are using the facilities in this way.  Wolverhampton’s Light House I love it! – Emma Pursehouse, Poet and writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 comments

  1. The Light House is a jewel! More than ever, a safe place for artists, craftspeople, media enthusiasts to meet safely in pleasant surroundings. I had the honour of exhibiting at the Light House, & it was most congenial. As a disabled person, access is vital to me, & my fellows. Please-save the Light House! A place to meet, chat, have pop-up stalls/galleries-it’s a great place.

    • lindsay says:

      Agreed Michele, community is central to what we do. We are a charity and here to serve Wolverhampton and every unique person who wants to use our space and enrich their lives. Thanks for your continued support x

  2. Alison Jayne James says:

    Please do not close this gem in Wolverhampton it is so friendly and comfortable venue

  3. Kristina Ball says:

    The Lighthouse is a truly unique venue. My husband and I got married here 2 years ago. The staff for so accomadating and allowed to create a perfect day for ourselves and our guests who are still talking about our special day 2 years on as one of the truly unique days they have had. If you have a special occasion or event I would highly recommend checking out before going to more well known venues.

    • lindsay says:

      Thank you Kristina, we love our weddings here at Light House as they are all as unique as our customers. It really is a special place isn’t it? Keep spreading the word! x

  4. Eleanor Andrews says:

    I have worked and also enjoyed leisure time at Light House for nearly 20 years. It is a great venue, with so much going on besides the cinema screenings. The staff are fabulous and over the years have become friends. The café is excellent and a nice cosy place to work on a winter’s day. So many varied clubs meet here and there are some wonderful exhibitions too. Every student that I have ever taught has loved this place and we must all make a real effort to keep it going.

    • lindsay says:

      Thank you Eleanor for your continued support. We’ll be working closely with the students to try and make even more of an impact with them this year, if (hopefully!)we can get through this!

  5. Lauren says:

    Unfortunately I only discovered Lighthouse a few months ago through word of mouth from a family member. The uniqueness of the place attracted me. I was told you could get coffee or wine and food to actually take into the cinema theatre with you! And the prices of food, drink and tickets are more than reasonable – they are super cheap! I thought it was too good to be true but I was wrong – it is all true. A gorgeous building, friendly staff, a great independent cinema, cheap prices, good food and drink, a cafe, an art gallery…what more could you want? I fell in love. I was just upset I didn’t hear of it or visit sooner. I read about them on their website and found out they are even more amazing than I thought – there are conferences, events, and groups on all of the time. They help those with deafness, hold language groups, and provide a safe place for many to visit for either a drink, film, chat, chill, language classes or just to meet other people for a chat or to make new friends – regardless of race, age or disabilities. It’s just a shame that this community hub that provides such helpful and valuable resources for many may go to waste. I would much rather see Lighthouse kept open and plans for a new (and highly likely modern and HUGE) entertainment centre in Wolverhampton scrapped.

    • lindsay says:

      Thank you Lauren. This is the sort of comment that makes us keep on fighting. Please keep spreading the word and we can together #SaveLightHouse !

  6. Michael Shaw says:

    To be honest Wolverhampton has so few really interesting and distinctive venues, as opposed to the same franchises as everywhere else, compared to other towns and cities of the same size that it can ill afford to lose one of its, if not the, best. Extremely short-sighted of the Council to withdraw support.

    • lindsay says:

      Thank you so much Michael, much appreciated. We’re a charity and we do what we do for Wolverhampton’s benefit, not to please shareholders or a big corporation. Keep spreading the news!

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Light House Media Centre, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1HT e: info@light-house.co.uk t: 01902 716 055 | Web design by Substrakt