A meeting has been held to gather support for the Kent Film Foundation’s bid to take on the Granville Theatre in Ramsgate.
Some 50 residents turned up to the meeting yesterday (March 7), organised by county councillor Karen Constantine, at the town’s Churchill’s pub. There was unanimous agreement that the fight for the bid should continue.
In October Thanet council invited expressions of interest from eligible community groups to become the new owners of Ramsgate’s Granville Theatre.
The council owns the freehold of the Granville but the site has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
The property is an Asset of Community Value, which means any disposal of the building must be carried out in accordance with rules set out in the Localism Act 2011.
But the submission from Kent Film Foundation, understood to have been the only bid, has been rejected and the site may now be put on the open market.
The foundation had hoped to create a new centre with workshop space, cinema, theatre, a bee-friendly roof terrace, the town’s first organic restaurant – and a new name.
The foundation had 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.
The foundation’s plans included workshop space to continue with youth film clubs and to create a new youth theatre and youth orchestra in partnership with Pie Factory music.
There would also have been two cinema screens and new theatre space.
The plans for construction of the building were for a “Green Build” design, with a bee-friendly roof terrace opened up to the public and a small cinema kiosk/café.
Those at the meeting last night were told that the decision had been taken by officers and not by councillors.
Central Harbour ward councillor Tricia Austin said: “It’s clear that when this plan comes to Cabinet it needs to be looked at in detail, as there’s a huge amount of public support for it.
“Our colleague Cllr Reece Pugh, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, must be aware that the Ramsgate Future Investment plan specifically includes the Granville as a vibrant attraction to help with opening up the East Cliff.
“Without this venue, we will only have the 35-seat Tom Thumb Theatre in Cliftonville offering theatre provision in Thanet (following upcoming temporary closures of the Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal this year), which makes it all the more important to ensure that Cabinet makes the right decision.”
Chair of Ramsgate Town Council, Cllr Anne-Marie Nixey, said increased consideration should be given to the potential positive impact on Ramsgate’s tourism offer.
She added: “It will not only benefit residents, but will boost local businesses. It’s exactly the type of facility that residents and visitors alike want to see in Thanet.”
The proposal is also being backed by actor, Ramsgatonian and patron of many town arts organisations Brenda Blethyn.
Hopefully Thanet council will reconsider Kent Film Foundations plans for the Granville Cinema thus keeping it in the community. It is desperately needed. Jan Dunn has a great track record in motivating young disadvantaged youngsters. Please Don’t sell. https://t.co/k2F1eB3ErC
— Brenda Blethyn (@BrendaBlethyn) March 8, 2022
John Walker, Chair of the Ramsgate Society, said: “The Ramsgate Society recognises the Granville Theatre is listed as an Asset of Community Value as defined in the Localism Act because it has a significant role to play in the Ramsgate offering to both residents and visitors as a theatre and cinema space.
“ It should be brought back into use as soon as possible. The society supports Kent Film’s Foundation’s bid and shares local affection for the building. The Society urges Thanet District Council to formally review the logic behind the rejection of the bid and to cooperate with KFF in delivering this much needed facility.
“We do not wish to see another important local community asset sold to the highest bidder. In the long term this simplistic approach to asset management does not provide best value for the local community”
Eastcliff ward councillors Steve Albon, Helen Crittenden and Corinna Huxley are working with the film foundation and liaising with officers at Thanet District Council to try and overcome the apparent difficulties with the recent bid and achieve a positive outcome for both the Granville Theatre and the residents of Ramsgate.
Filmmaker and KFF founder Jan Dunn said: “KFF is thrilled to have received so much public support. We will do whatever it takes to try to secure the Granville as an ongoing cinema venue, that will still be open to the public.
“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to use the Granville over the years for our own children while they have been growing up. It’s been a really valuable to have something like this right on the doorstep. We are passionate about fighting for its continuation.”
Young activist Harry told the meeting that he was cross about the loss of the cinema and that he would chain himself to the building! He got the loudest round of applause.
The group is now advising residents to email Thanet council Cabinet member Cllr Reece Pugh to add their voices to explain why they want to see the Granville kept as an asset, and to request that this decision be called in for proper consultation.Email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also a Save the Granville Facebook page where residents can keep up to date with developments at https://www.facebook.com/groups/503575661175496/
A petition set up by artist Karen Vost urging Thanet council to reconsider is gaining traction with almost 4,000 signatures.