New Letham cinema initiative hopes to knit together a village over a love of film

The group behind the Letham Lights community cinema, from left: Chris Brincat, Patrick McDonnell, Keith Taylor, Jamie Smith.
The group behind the Letham Lights community cinema, from left: Chris Brincat, Patrick McDonnell, Keith Taylor, Jamie Smith.
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Once a steadfast feature of many Scottish towns, the local cinema has fallen to the hands of multiplexes but a group of four film enthusiasts in Letham have fought to resurrect a community screen.

GP Keith Taylor with friends Chris Brincat, Patrick McDonnell and Jamie Smith, aided by the Grow Your Own Cinema initiative, will bring a variety of films to Letham Town Hall, with the launch on August 21 at 3pm.

Excited about the prospect, Keith explained how Letham Community Cinema has become a reality: “We have been talking about ways of putting on events for the community to bring people together and a cinema seemed like a great way to do this.

“Many people remember how cinemas used to be a focal point in small towns and how exciting it was to see a film with other people no matter what it was!

“It is sad that over the years these have slowly vanished and been replaced with generic multiplex cinemas outside large cities which are often very expensive, inaccessible, and can feel a little soulless.

“We wanted to revive the idea of film being something for everyone to enjoy together rather than sitting alone in your living room.”

Over the coming months the group plan to show a variety of films that will appeal to different ages and interests.

Their ambitious plans for how they would like to develop in the future include some possibilities for themed events such as planning a spooky family event for Halloween and It’s a Wonderful Life for Christmas complete with 1940s costume and mulled wine and perhaps a future outdoor screening.

“To begin with we want to focus on providing an affordable, entertaining and interesting experience for everyone young and old. We will be learning quite a lot from the audience as we go!

The venture is entirely not-for-profit and volunteering enthusiastically amidst families and jobs – Keith is a GP, Patrick works in IT, Chris is a computer games designer, Jamie works for an organisation that supports apprenticeships – to bring something different to the area.

The launch starts with something a little unusual – a charming documentary called “Addicted to Sheep” about a year in the life of a family on a remote hill farm in the Pennines who are on a quest to find the perfect sheep!

The documentary, by French filmmaker Magali Pettier, depicts a family on the rural edge of modern society. It reveals an inner reality of Britain’s heritage, behind the aesthetic and sentimental appreciation of the countryside. Consumers rarely see the people beyond the landscape, the food we eat or the clothes we wear. This is an opportunity to bridge that disconnection.

“We thought this might appeal to a lot of us who live in a rural area but have little appreciation of what goes on in the fields around us,” explained Keith.

“We will also be showing a couple of short films that perfectly capture the innate spirit of hope and adventure that children take into the world. One of these films Into theMiddle of Nowhere, was filmed at the Secret Garden nursery in Letham a few years ago and follows a child’s eye view of the beautiful woodlands in the village.”

Grow Your Own cinema is a project which aims to develop film exhibition skills within voluntary arts groups not currently working with film in areas of low cinema provision.

Letham Lights were successful in gaining help from the group, which is funded through Creative Scotland’s Screen Skills Fund and is delivered in partnership with Cinema For All and Voluntary Arts Scotland.

Launched in February, an initial call-out recieved 40 expressions of interest from across Scotland and ‘Grow Your Own Cinema: Fife’ was chosen as one of four areas in Scotland to be part of the project.

Morven Cunningham, Cinema For All project officer, said: “I am really looking forward to working with the Letham guys on the screening and urge anyone who wants to find out more about Grow Your Own Cinema, to visit www.cinemaforall.org.uk.”

“The Grow Your Own Cinema project has helped enormously to give us confidence and provided technical advice to get up and running, but we are mainly learning as we go and we will be guided by what our audience would like to see,” explained Keith.

“It has also been invaluable meeting some other local cinema groups which seem to be popping up all over the country to learn from their experience. We are all volunteers and any money we raise will go towards supporting the village hall and buying equipment to make the cinema sustainable in the long term.”

The Letham Lights group will rely on any profits they gain from the screenings to be able to reinvest in the community. Keith continued: “Hopefully we will break even and any extra will go into helping to develop the hall to make for a more cinematic experience; things like good blackout blinds and so on.

“As we become more established we will be applying for funding grants to purchase further audio-visual equipment which can then be used for a variety of purposes in the hall.”

To find out more or buy tickets visit, www.lethamlights.org.