Ramsgate charity Kent Film Foundation is hoping to take on the Granville Theatre building at the Eastcliff and create a stunning new centre which will include workshop space, cinema, theatre, a bee-friendly roof terrace, the town’s first organic restaurant – and a new name.
The charity, based in Cliff Street, works with young people through film and media and also runs youth programmes for youngsters interested in film and media careers. It is partnered with local film production company Violet Pictures, headed up by Ramsgate-based director Jan Dunn.
The foundation has been in active pursuit of the building since registering interest in it as a Community Asset Transfer in spring 2017 after losing their bid for the old Ice House.
In September 2019 the charity’s management committee was successful, along with a number of others, in getting the Granville building registered as a building of community value. This has potentially opened a path towards a community organisation acquiring the venue through a Community Asset Transfer. The foundation has submitted an application for this to the council and says it has a team of people who understand the business of film and arts production, distribution, exhibition and management and understand the differences between the business models.
Kent Film Foundation’s plans have been welcomed by cross-party town, district and county councillors and also by a number of other community organisations which the foundation aims to partner with in the future. These include Ramsgate Festival of Sound, Ramsgate Arts, Broadstairs based Inspiration Creative Theatre and the Freedom Road Project.
Freedom Road creative director Sabina Desir said: “We don’t have a proper arts centre building in Ramsgate that is a high spec venue and of decent capacity to attract the kind of musicians I work with in other venues in London and South East Kent.
“Their plans are well thought out by a team of highly skilled individuals who know what they are talking about.”
Kent Film Foundation already partners with organisations including Ramsgate International TV and Film Festival, Screen South and Film Hub South East. The foundation plans to expand its work as a film network for creative industries around the Thames Estuary corridor with the use of free access to new film and media technologies through Hi3 Network initiative at Canterbury Christ Church University funded by the EU ERDF.
Plans for the building are to include workshop space to continue with youth film clubs and create a new youth theatre and youth orchestra in partnership with Pie Factory music.
There will also be two cinema screens and new theatre space. The foundation’s youth workshops are free to participants and run all year around. They use film and the arts as a tool to build confidence and aspirations and improve life skills and have inspired as many young careers in film as it has in the trades.
The construction of the building will be a “Green Build” design, with a bee-friendly roof terrace opened up to the public and customers alike. As well as a small cinema kiosk/café it will boast Ramsgate’s first organic restaurant.
The venue will screen live theatre from the National Theatre and Opera such as that on offer by the ENO. There will be “free seat” rows reserved for certain postcodes in the area so that everyone has a chance to enjoy new cultural opportunities in the town. Activities will raise enough revenue to fund other operational aspects.
There are also other community plans such as low income single-parent, free cooking-on-a-budget classes with a number of volunteer tutors already signed up for. The Silver Screen free screenings-with-a-cuppa for pensioners will also be reinstated.
The building’s design will also incorporate renewable energy creating self-sufficiency. Consultation for the fully accessible rebuild, including disabled adult changing facilities, will incorporate consulting one of the charity’s patrons, Manston born Paralympian Claire Harvey.
Working on the charity’s concept with filmmaker Jan Dunn will be the Kent based RIBA registered architects Felicity Atekpe and Zara Bloomfield. They said: “The building is in a bad state and needs structural work and we all collectively just want to make it a better place, especially as it’s such an important place in the history and psyche of Ramsgate.
“The Green part of the architectural design is interesting in terms of reusing buildings. That is the most sustainable thing to do with a building, rather than to knock it down to the ground and build something new. We are incredibly keen to work with what we’ve got there to rebuild the fabric and try to keep as much as we can but to re-imagine it for something that can be used for Kent Film Foundation and their classes using renewable technologies.”
Actress and resident Brenda Blethyn said: “Kent Film Foundation is absolutely the right organisation to be given the opportunity to rebuild and manage the building. The trustees and management committee not only have people from professional film and theatre backgrounds but also, and more importantly, they have people with decades of experience in successful cinema and arts exhibition, which means the right experience for the job at hand”.
Kent Film Foundation will be removing the name of Granville. The charity says this is due to negative association to the family name that bears no relation to the character of Kent Film Foundation and its principals for use of the building and for the community it aims to serve.
The new name, The Sandcastle, was decided during a session at Lego club by two of the foundations younger members.
Thanet council Cabinet members will be discussing the next steps for the Granville building in July.
The council owns the freehold of the building but the site has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March last year.