Abbeydale Picture House Revival – 19 July 2015, Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield

This weekend, 40 years after it closed as a cinema, saw the revival of the Abbeydale Picture House, which first opened on 20 December 1920 and showed films up until its close on 5 July 1975, with short and feature film screenings, food, stalls and the hard work of a lot of volunteers.

Due to my own volunteering responsibilities elsewhere, though my boyfriend was volunteering at event itself, I sadly missed the opportunity to watch short films courtesy of the Yorkshire Film Archive, but did arrive at the event in time to see one of my favourite British films Film4‘s “Brassed Off” on the big screen, which is not only one of the best films ever made about the closure of coal mines and brass band music, but featured many of this country’s best acting talent doing what they do best, including Stephen Tompkinson moving me to tears with his character’s suicide attempt, and my favourite film chat up line of all time.

After a break (the whole day was delayed slightly but I will happily let the organisers off for this) I watched two and a bit short films produced by Warp Films (the copy of the third didn’t work properly), which as always with their productions both intrigued and shocked me in equal measure, including the very “This is England” style “Scummy Man” (fans of the drama should recognise one of the cast).

Not included in the programme but gratefully received, we then had an interview with Mark Herbert, Location Manager on Brassed Off, manager of Warp Films and Producer (and Honey Monster) on Four Lions, who provided the growing audience with insight information on both his career, his love of Sheffield, Four Lions and Chris Morris and that “This is England 90” will be on our television screens this Autumn.

My previous experience of Four Lions came during a previous career at Broadway Media Centre in Nottingham, where the second ever screening of the film took place and we brought in, but didn’t need, security for the event. Unconvinced I’d enjoy it I missed the screening and the chance to meet Chris Morris, but it did give me an opportunity to escort his co-writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (currently working on the final series of Peep Show) from their hotel to the venue, before my colleagues persuaded me of the film’s brilliance and I saw it a few days later.

What I didn’t realise then was that the next time I’ll see this comedy gold about hapless wannabe bombers I’ll be living in the town it was filmed in, so as well as enjoying the blowing up of crows and sheep (one did sadly die during filming) and unable to get “Dancing in the Moonlight” (a song my boyfriend, who was watching the film for the first time, hates with a passion) I was playing spot the Sheffield location. 

As well as showing that the future of British film comedy is in safe hands (as long as the characters in the film don’t blow it up), “Four Lions” also happily didn’t feel the need to put big names in its lead role, only giving the likes of Benedict Cucumberpatch (still love calling him that) and Julia Davies blink and miss it roles.

Other highlights of the day included a gorgeous cheese burger from The Juicy Kitchen (worth the wait and coming with a mouthwatering description), my first and hopefully not last lemon meringue doughnut courtesy of Eve Handmade Donuts and pinching some of my boyfriend’s yummy mac & cheese and chips prepared by Shoot The Bull.

It was also well worth me viewing an exhibition upstairs at the venue on the history of cinemas in Sheffield, though I was shocked that out of the over 50 cinemas in the city in the 1930s less than 30 of the remaining buildings still existed in the 1980s (hate to think how many are left now and what they are being used for including what is now the Sainsburys on London Road) showing the importance of maintaining and supporting this country’s still existing independent cinemas, and being able to buy “Rebecca”, my favourite black and white film on DVD.

I also got the chance to speak to the owner of Abbeydale Picture House, Phil Robins, a character who seems to love the building, despite any issues with its state of repair, and in a very English fashion discussed the weather with me.

In addition to Phil, I’d also like to thank the organisers of this weekend including Louise Snape, Rob Hughes and Ismar Badzic and the event’s partners including Warp Films, the Projected Picture Trust and The Antiques Quarter for both a fantastic two days and for restoring my faith in this country’s most beautiful and accessible art venues, the cinema.

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