Abbeydale Picture House

Antiques Quarter

An icon being brought back to life.

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An enchanted princess of a building, the beguiling Abbeydale Picture House is at last mid-rescue. One of Sheffield's most iconic buildings, its striking presence first graced Abbeydale Road in 1920; a luxury cinema with gold decorations and a silver screen, full of marbles, mosaics and mahogany.

There've been occasional screenings at Abbeydale Picture House in recent years – everything from silent films with live piano scores, harking back to the building’s early days, to Bruce Lee films. Meanwhile Sensoria and Doc/Fest have made great use of the building for some packed out concerts and screenings. We've enjoyed the odd vintage market here too. The Picture House’s decadence on all these occasions has remained mesmerising; it’s hard to keep your eyes on the screen when your surroundings are so fascinating – all peeling paint and crumbling, melodramatic beauty.

Now, the culturally insatiable and exceptionally capable lot from CADS have taken on the task of bringing this divine Grade II listed building into regular use. And it’s in such a great spot, with Picture House Social right underneath it and all the delights of London and Abbeydale Roads – we like to call it the Food Mile – and the Antiques Quarter stretching to either side. Can’t wait? If you’ve got the skills, you can answer the call to donate your time to help with the restoration.

I talked to Nick from CADS to find out more about the story so far and what we can expect in the future.

It must be really exciting to be working with such an iconic Sheffield building, but hard work too. What can we expect from the revitalised building?
It's definitely hard work, and the list of what needs to be done is seemingly endless! We've made great progress so far, and a huge proportion of that is down to the incredible help we've had from volunteers (including GoodGym), and the efforts of Sheffield Contemporary [a new art space] in the fly tower.

So far we've brought the former backstage into use as a second events space, added more seats to the auditorium, and renovated other rooms around the building. Unfortunately a lot of the original historical features of the building have been lost over the years as the building fell into disrepair, but we've been able to salvage and safeguard what remains. By the end of 2017 we'll have two event spaces and multiple studio spaces, including co-working space Studio One. The second stage is more of a longterm goal – we're applying for funding to complete the full heritage restoration of the building for use as a vibrant, public events venue. This will include all aspects of the building, including the balcony. It'll take several years but it's looking positive!

What's the response been like from the local community?
It's been fantastic – we knew it would be, knowing the long history of love the local community has for this building (most of us live in the area too). We wouldn't be able to get this far without all the volunteers. We're also working with the Abbeydale Stakeholders Group and Sheffield Antiques Quarter to help contribute to the area.

What will the revived Abbeydale Picture House add to Sheffield's current venue circuit?
Sheffield has been crying out for a venue of this capacity for quite some time. In broader terms, we want to provide a flexible, creative venue that doesn't shy away from the weird and wonderful. Due to the nature of the building it's suitable for music, cinema, theatre, conferences and comedy, so we're keen to hear any ideas! CADS has always had a policy of openness and CADS Trust will be looking to support events and projects from local people that might not be possible at other venues.

The fly tower also holds huge potential, and this has already been shown by Sheffield Contemporary – they'll be back for more exhibitions, but in the meantime it's also available to hire. It's hard to put into words how tall and breathtaking this space really is! Alongside hosting weddings, we also now hold a ceremonies licence, so you can actually get married in the building!

Check the website for upcoming events.

Written by Nat Loftus; July 20, 2017

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