Abbeydale Picture House is one of the architectural icons of our city and there’s been a lot of excitement about attempts to restore the Grade II-listed building to its former glory.

With the announcement earlier this year that restoration and artistic development experts CADS have signed a 25-year lease on the building, a new hope emerged. We caught up with Nick Potter to find out more.

How did this come about?

For CADS, we reached a point where we had over ten buildings we were operating, but it was mostly studio spaces and a lot of it was on ‘meanwhile use’, so very short leases, which is very high risk. Through an acquaintance, we found out that the owner was looking for somebody with experience in renovation and creative arts to take it on long-term and we were recommended. We immediately fell in love with the building.

Did you know much about the rich heritage of the building before you signed the lease?

I knew it had a bit of a chequered history in terms of people trying to make it work, which is why we’re intending to be the last to try and make it work! Our approach is very much open arms. It’s a space for other people to use. The events we’ve had so far have been such a huge range. It’s not just, ‘Look at this amazing ex-cinema; let’s do a cinema again.’ That’s the reason it closed down before. You can’t run a cinema on that scale with one room. It just doesn’t work.

We’ve got this heritage board which is headed by Professor Vanessa Toulmin, who we’ve worked with before, and she’s delighted that we’re taking it on. Vanessa is going to look into the history, as there’s so much that people still don’t know. We’ve heard it was originally built as ‘cine-variety’, with theatre and cinema, so you’ve got the stage and the huge backstage area where Contemporary Sheffield are at the moment. From what we’ve heard, it never actually opened as cine-variety, as by the time they got around to opening cinema had exploded so much they realised they’d have to do straight-up cinema.

Are you intending to stay true to the building’s original heritage in terms of renovation?

That side of the renovation we’re waiting on funding. At the moment we’re trying to work on it being a usable space. The main thing for us is to get it open and have it running constantly. We’re finishing off some work to get a wedding license. To get it working financially, we need to do stuff like weddings alongside the community-focused stuff.

Do you have any events lined up?

We’ve got Doc/Fest, we’ve got BBC Music Day – two big ones coming up. We’ve had car boots and the stuff with Sheffield Antiques Quarter. We’re running temporary events and seeing what works.

Is there anything the community can be doing to help out?

We’ll be launching a crowd fundraiser soon as we’re close to getting the licence to open every day with a café and bar. We’ve had some amazing work from volunteers already with renovations and that’s going to continue. We’re going to need loads of help. We’re such a small charity. We rely on volunteers.

The long-term goal is to get heritage funding, but that will come later. Our main ethos – and I think this is where people have previously fallen down – is it’s not about doing nothing and waiting for a massive grant. It’s about getting it working and in parallel exploring all the further funding.

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Tasha Franek