Entertainment

Strand Arts Centre wants your memories of north's 'lost' picture houses

The Strand Arts Centre. Picture by David Bunting
The Strand Arts Centre. Picture by David Bunting The Strand Arts Centre. Picture by David Bunting

BELFAST'S Strand Arts Centre is the oldest cinema in the north - and now it wants your help in remembering the other 'picture houses' which have come and gone in years gone by.

The Lasting Picture House project aims to celebrate our shared history of cinemagoing by collecting memories of the movie theatres which were once a feature of every town and village across the north.

“We want to get communities across Northern Ireland involved in contributing memories of going to the cinema," explains Strand Arts Centre heritage officer Rosie Hickey of the project, which is part of a wider investment by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help finance the planning stages of The Strand's proposed refurbishment.

Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund

"From attending the Saturday morning 'Minors Club' to kissing in the back row of the movies, cinemagoing is part of our collective DNA. And our own personal memories of trips to the cinema can instantly transport us back to different times and places in our lives.”

The stories gathered in The Lasting Picture House project will be "woven throughout the fabric of the renovated building" at the John McBride Neill-designed Strand on the Holywood Road, which was built in 1935.

The hope is to create a permanent home for memories of cinemagoing in the north which can inform future generations about the social history and impact of cinema here.

Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund

“As part of our engagement about the social history of the Strand, it has become clear that there are also many stories to be told about all Northern Ireland’s picture houses that have been lost over the decades," says Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle.

"From John McBride Neill’s other grand designs, including the Curzon and Majestic in Belfast and the Tonic in Bangor, to cinemas that were once at the heart of hometowns and cities such as Enniskillen, Portrush, Ballymena, Donaghadee and Derry, among many others.

The Stand first opened in 1935
The Stand first opened in 1935 The Stand first opened in 1935

“Through chatting with cinemagoers and schoolchildren, we’re gaining a better understanding of what it is about a trip to the picture house that resonates positively with audiences – be that the distinctive architecture, opulent décor, community atmosphere or shared experience of laughing or crying at a film with other people.”

To find out more about how you can contribute your memories of cinemas in the north and donate items of cinema memorabilia, visit strandstoriesbelfast.com

Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund Strand Arts Centre CEO Mimi Turtle and Dr Paul Mullan, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund