Kent Film Foundation reveals ambitious ‘green’ proposals for Granville Theatre building

How the renamed Granville building could look

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.

Jan Dunn

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.”

Photo Chris Tipping

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.

It is hoped the project could be included in plans for a £20million bid for Ramsgate to the government’s Levelling Up fund.

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.

Thanet council to discuss the future of Ramsgate’s Granville Theatre

55 Comments

  1. not another arts centre – what is the obssession with this nonsense ? its jobs for young people this area needs, most youngsters i speak have not got the slightest interest in this sort of thing , and have never visited that eyesore in margate !

    • Dear Ramsgatetonian, perhaps you can point us in the direction of the arts centres you speak of in Ramsgate? As far as we are aware there has been no such place here for decades? The charity has helped many hundreds of young people over its ten-year track record of unlocking opportunities towards work and even to higher education by using film and the arts as tools. Fortunately, there are enough people who want to pay for theatre, film, music and arts events that will share costs of the youth projects we run with the funders we have already attracted. Many of our film-mentors are chosen because they come from poor backgrounds and have lived experiences of how the arts helped them as youngsters to get a better footing for their lives ahead. Many of the youngsters we work with have never been introduced to the arts like the ones you mention but hopefully we can continue to change that for the better. Especially if people can view our success and our aims for the building as a positive step for the town.

    • creative arts etc are growing a rapid rate and attracting people from all over to visit when up and running, and creating a lot of work in tv film video etc – thats what the internet has done for the arts just because its not to your taste ….. embrace it

    • You must know some pretty stupid young people then. Decades ago I was involved with an amateur dramatics theatre group, and staged some 35 productions, we had about 60 members in the Youth Group, who also staged some very impressive productions. Don’t underestimate the need for this, as a pensioner I would look forward to dining in the organic vegetarian cafe.

    • The UK’s Creative Industries contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour. Please see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-creative-industries-contributes-almost-13-million-to-the-uk-economy-every-hour

      Theres is a Government definition of the Creative Industries (which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/creative-industries-mapping-documents-2001)

      The Creative Industries by this definition include: advertising, architecture, arts and antique markets, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure software, music, performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio.

      These are all industries that lead to work for the young and throughput careers.

  2. This a fabulous and practical idea for Ramsgate. It will provide a local high quality cinema, a bar and restaurant, meeting space, and importantly jobs. This is just what Ramsgate needs and it will breathe new life in the the Granville building.

    • I agree totally. Even as someone who lives in North Thanet, I’m tired of seeing money thrown at Turner Contemporary and Dreamland while Ramsgate is ignored.

  3. I think they should do something for the retired , who would be more interested in this sort of thing , a one day a week social club , film , music , speaker club for instance , the place would be packed out from my research

  4. A good idea! There’s no point in bewailing the lack of decent jobs for young people as if that would magically mean that money, that might be available for an Arts Centre , would be transferred to a fund to create jobs.
    Far from it. Successive governments openly state that they believe that private businesses will provide the jobs. Good, long term jobs with holidays, good wages and pensions, apparently.
    Government grants are only available for local improvements like Arts Centres, open green spaces,tree planting etc.
    We need a government that realises that private businesses only invest if they can use LESS workers on LOWER pay with no long term prospects. Hire and Fire is their preference.
    So, if you really want good jobs for local young people, you will need to vote for a government that is willing to CREATE the work places and jobs itself, not rely on private investment. But, so far, there is no sign of that happening. Instead, most votes (44% of voters at the last election) opted for the current government that believes in giving taxpayers money to private businesses and expecting this to generate lots of jobs.
    Not happening!!

    So why not take advantage of any grants that ARE available, for Arts Centres etc.
    The money is NOT available for proper job creation as the government is honest in saying that they just don’t believe in that sort of thing. And 44% of the voters support them! So don’t blame the sponsors of Arts centres for applying for what little cash might be available.

  5. Sounds great – but why change the name? Just because it’s being completely renovated, doesn’t mean it has to have a new name too and a link to the past would be good.

    • We had the same question through the engagement on facebook and can clarify our team unanimously agreeing to do this. Granville Leveson-Gower used his extraordinary wealth to clear lands of tenants in Scotland with total disregard to the families that had farmed there for generations, further increasing his already huge wealth. The Granville Theatre takes its name from this family. The original landowner was Sir Travers Twist who worked with King Leopold of Belgium to write the constitution for Congo in 1884 which directly resulted in horrendous atrocities perpetrated upon the local Congolese population. This was one of the greatest international scandals of the 20th Century, the revelation of exploitation of Africans and their lands. The character of Kent Film Foundation and the principals of use of the building in a town like ours do not sit well with this history. There is no loss of legacy in such a name change, taking the building far away from this disturbing part of history. The legacy is within the building, not the name.

        • Only several of us have been advocating for this kind of aknowledgement change for over 30 years, Peter Checksfield. We have a historian at the helm. And the charity’s board has been mix-gendered and diverse since its inception which began over 10 years ago well before setting it up as a charity and long before diversity was the word of the moment. The term Woke ism surfaced in 2014 and resurfaced during BLM campaigns stemming from America. Oh dear, we hope you agree with the name change as a valid reason, the under ten year olds at Lego Club did and came up with something more universally pleasant.

          • It does not matter to me what the origins of a place’s name is, it is what it BECOMES. The Granville Theatre is the place where I saw my talented young nieces making their stage debuts a decade or so ago, and Bristol’s Colston Hall is where I saw Jerry Lee Lewis do one of his finest concerts in 1983.

            All of this rewriting of history is at the very least very silly, and at the most very dangerous. I support your idea, but NOT the change of name. “The Sandcastle” (not surprisingly) sounds like an under-10s play group, whereas “Granville” sounds, well, GRAND.

          • Perhaps you should have given the local residents a chance to choose a name- something referring to the area eg “The Fountain Theatre” or “Eastcliff Theatre”.

        • I don’t think changing the name is rewriting history Peter – that is a stretch. If anything it is acknowledging it bringing it to everyone’s attention. I would not have know of the history of the name without the change.

        • I agree, we should learn from our history, the good and the bad. NOT erase it. These lefties are pathetic and need to sit in their safe spaces while contemplating their pathetic wokism.

      • Sir Travis Twist was one of four people named as Lady Truro’s executors. They had the job of selling off the remainder of the Mount Albion Estate after Lady Truro’s death (1866) and distributing the proceeds between the various charities named in her will.

        A large chunk of the estate was sold shortly after her death, including a lot of the land up as far as Truro Road, much of which was bought by Robert Sankey, Edward Welby Pugin and John Barnet Hodgson. A lot of the land on the far side of Truro road was sold in 1874.

        The final residue of the Mount Albion Estate, including the roads and gardens, appears to have been conveyed to The Mayor Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Ramsgate on 16 April 1889. By this time Sir Travers Twiss was the only executor still alive. Although his name appears as the vendor, he was probably just acting as an executor – winding up the last part of Lady Truro’s estate.

        It was quite common for the council to take over parks and gardens at this time. The former owners and property developers were often quite happy for someone else to take over the cost of maintenance.

      • The building still has the history you abhor whatever you try and call it, if your beliefs are so strong perhaps you’d be better off looking for a site with a more pleasant (to your mind) attached history. Rather than wishing to avail yourselves of a cheap and convenient ready made venue and no doubt taxpayer funding ias time progresses.
        Applying the values of today to actions of yesteryear is to many absurd. A name change does nothing to remove the stain you’ve created and yet you wish to benefit from that same history.
        A confusing contradiction.
        The Granville has been just that to the vast majority of thanets residents for decades, a name change removes that link tof community cohesion on the basis of a historian assumably engaged to drag up dirt for no good reason.

  6. I bet not many people in Ramsgate knew why this building was called “The Granville” before today. Will you be putting an information panel somewhere in the building to let people know a) what it used to be called and b) why the name was changed? Education is the way forward, not erasure.

  7. Kent Film Foundation should not be given the opportunity to manage this building, it would be rather problematic, they are inherently discriminatory. They only cater for young people. They specifically exclude over 19s. Thanet is a deprived area and there are many adults of low socioeconomic status that would also like the ability to participate in the arts. Thanet already has a long-established charity for working with arts and the youth (see Pie Factory Music). Putting Kent Film Foundation in this position would deprive LGBTQ, POC, low socioeconomic status and other minority adults the ability to gain vital new skills relating to the arts, and it would lower social mobility. I fully support the arts but put a charity that is actually inclusive in charge.

    • Sarah Jane, Kent Film Foundation have been running FREE LGBT youth film clubs for many years, indeed one of the young members of that particular group got in to the highly selective BFI Film Academy where a number of our young film club members have managed to secure places in the past few years. One of those is now on the charity’s board of trustees. The BFI Academy is an industry game changer for starting careers. That young LGBT transguy wants to become a game designer and it is something he would never have thought about had he not become part of the film clubs. We also accessed one of our hardship grants for him for a laptop and the proper software the filmmentor with the right background could guide him towards. As we have done for several other young people. The film he was involved with at the BFI Academy is one of those screening as part of the Covid Film Challenge currently running. We also have members of the board of trustees who are LGBT too. The charity’s function as set out at the charity commission is to work with young people aged 5-19 particularly from low socio economic backgrounds. Targeted, not discriminitary. You may not be aware of it but there are a number of organisations already in the town and certainly in wider Thanet already delivering arts projects and who we would not want to compete with for funding but instead we are partnering with them in the building, some we have already partnered with on projects in the past. We aim to work with Pie Factory Music for example to start a FREE youth orchestra. Twelve local charity and arts organisations actually but our skills are in the “business” of running a film/theatre building and making enough income so that these other projects can work. One charity that knows how to, needs to run it. All our screening events we have run in the past in the cinema have been well attended, including documentaries and are always open to all. Many of our guest speakers who come and mentor or talk to the young people are chosen specifically due to their own backgrounds of low income as inspirational professionals. Our consultants and advisors also include people from low socio economic backgrounds. We also have plans for the building to be far more physically inclusive including adult disabled changing facilities which are very hard to come by. Our team also includes three disabled people. Each of the partners we will be working iwth have all of their own remits too. We would hope that given the fuller picture you may not have been aware of, that you consider Kent Film Foundation is the right organisation to acquire the building as a community arts centre as is its plan.

  8. does this mean they wont be needing that beautiful barge in the inner harbour then ?, i havent noticed much restoration going on at the moment.

  9. That someone has a passionate aspiration for the building is brilliant. That it needs to be for all age groups is obvious, if not wholly explicit from what I read.
    This is a step change looking at Kent Film Foundation’s Charity Commission returns, they are going to need support, not just in the capital costs for reconstruction, which will be vastly expensive (damp 30s concrete building in a chalk clifftop location…), but also in day-to-day operation, it’s going to take some work to make it wipe its face – I’d point everyone to have a look at Chapter Arts in Cardiff to see what a not dissimilar really vibrant venue with community at its heart can achieve and the Granville could be that. I don’t want to get political, I’m not too worried what the venue ends up being called as long as the name really speaks to people, but it is completely apparent that Government support and particularly through Oliver Dowden & DCMS with the retain and explain directive means that any name change needs to be a considered & careful sell if Government money is going to form part of the funding matrix.
    That bring me to my last concern, yes Ramsgate lacks a decently sized multi use arts venue and it REALLY needs one, this could be that. But there are a few projects, all worthy in their on right, such as the Arts Barge, Arts in Ramsgate and others, that’s before you consider the Maritime Museum (I’ll flag that as a museum professional and enthusiast I have an interest here, in the spirit of openness) and the Tunnels aspirations with their 1940s plans, to name but two. Can we achieve it all at once or are we better to unite and pull off one or two signature projects, demonstrate excellence and sustainability, then move on to the next project while ensuring those completed continue to prosper?

  10. And the like clockwork the “whataboutery” starts… Good luck to them, I live yards from the Granville and went regularly (couple of times a week sometimes) and am very sad that it was never busy, and utterly beaten into the ground by the Vue cinema – here’s hoping that an exciting and innovative venue can be created and bring more life, investment and visitors to our beautiful town.

  11. Kent Film Foundation you seem a little defensive if I may say so.

    I really like your plans, I doubt we can rename everything ever but I entirely get your point and I think this is a far more worthwhile project than the arts barge if I may say so. Don’t let the name thing exclude you from a community who might not agree with you or you’ll go down a rabbit hole. You need to work with, and be a part of, this community and find ways of forming common ground.

    Whether people agree with the youth element it will be a cinema for our town and this is well worth supporting in its own right, but I do hope there isn’t another gargantuan crowd funding requirement from the residents. Too often ideas are formed and funding becomes an expectation from the residents who are then left alleged of not supporting creative ventures.

    The Arts has taken a systemic battering in the last decade, especially in secondary and higher education and subjects such as film and media are critical to developmental thinking and are genuinely inclusive subjects irrelevant of academic attainment and there are so many ways in which film and media can inspire a generation, so I’m really in favour of this and you’ve clearly really thought about it and have impressive ideas.

    Will you be seeking volunteers?

  12. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to issue a press release about plans for the Granville when TDC have not made any announcements regarding the venues future nor put out a call for tenders or expressions of interest – or have they done so and I’ve missed it? If not that suggests an improper and unfair process which, I believe, would automatically disqualify the bid regardless of its relative merits. Other organisation may have equally good ideas or wish to put forward a proposal but haven’t made a public announcement because that would be unfair competition/influence.

  13. Kent Film Foundation – what a fantastic project! So well thought through and full of positive ideas for Ramsgate. Thank you for all the work you have clearly put in so far and let’s hope, for everyone in Ramsgate, this project gets all the support it needs!

  14. An exciting project and I wish you the best of luck. Please ignore the keyboard warriors here. It’s the same people spouting negativity story after story.

  15. Good luck with the enterprise.
    But I don’t think much of changing the name, nor the way the new name was chosen.

  16. this lot wont be happy until everyone on the planet of thanet is walking around in a big hat and cape and calling one another ” dear boy ” and “darling ” – im afraid this theatrical scene is not for the real locals.

  17. I like the idea of the building getting a refit and all that but totally disagree with the renaming. I don’t understand the obsession with erasing history, most of which is not apparent nowadays anyway. It will always be known as the Granville to the majority.

  18. Old stager, yes the cinema is far too theatrical and continental for us Ramsgate folk. I wouldn’t never dream of seeing a film because I’m busy polishing my tin bath and scrubbing my front doorstep after a long shift down the mine and as for reading books? High falutin stuff that.

    Darling.

  19. The name is not important in my opinion, its what it gives to the community, that’s important,and I wish it all the best,we need centres like this.

    • Quite the opposite. To suggest this development isn’t for Ramsgate real locals such as Old Timer thinks is what I’m commenting on. I’m a real local, proud working class and I’d be happy. My comment is sarcastic.

  20. Fantastic proposal! When I first moved here over 30 years ago there was Ruth Cousen’s Castle Arts Centre in Harbour Parade which was encouraging. For me the name Sandcastle is perfect! This will be of great value and opportunity for our young people especially. It’s the best news this year!

  21. why not name it after the great local entertainer SONNY DAY ? – whoops i forgot , george ( sonny ) was in the black and white minstrels – god forbid , dont even go there .

    • Is he still around? He was a regular performer when I worked at The Winter Gardens (2007 – 2011), lovely chap. I agree though, “The Sonny Day” theatre is a great name!

  22. Sound like a fabulous idea. I am not from Ramsgate but visit it regularly and can see the need for a great cultural centre like this. We had a similar situation in Dorking where I live – there were plenty of naysayers with a similar development It is now difficult to imagine the town without the modernised halls. What’s not to like with changing a bit of an eye sore into a vibrant place which will surely serve local and visitors alike, creating jobs and also a centre for young people and others to develop skills and interests.

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