Helensburgh Advertiser

Community Council backs cinema buyout plans

- Tristan Stewart-Robertson tristan.s-robertson@newsquest.co.uk

COMMUNITY leaders have backed efforts to save Helensburg­h’s cinema and arts centre for the town.

Activitist­s behind the Save the Tower campaign presented their vision and next steps to Helensburg­h Community Council (HCC) last week after unveiling their project earlier this month.

The campaign’s steering group said the facility was “faced with the prospect of change due to unforeseen circumstan­ces” because the current owner, Brian Keating, is “contemplat­ing a transition to retirement”.

When the plans for a buyout were revealed, the group said the change of circumstan­ces was “casting a shadow of uncertaint­y over the future of The Tower”.

Paul Lyden, chair of the community buyout steering group, told HCC members the group of “Tower enthusiast­s” included some staff and volunteers.

Mr Lyden said the current owner of the Tower Digital Arts Centre is willing to sell, and the campaign has already sold out an event this Saturday, February 3 when they will show off their vision - a vital step in showing community interest as they apply for funding for the project.

The local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, along with the UK Cinema Associatio­n and local MSP Jackie Baillie, have all publicly expressed their support for the buy-out plan.

And members of HCC have now also given their backing to the venture as it moves forward.

Mr Lyden told the meeting: “We recognise that with the owner moving on, maybe we should do something about it.

“The staff recognitio­n was, ‘let’s make this place work’. We don’t believe in travelling alone.”

He said since the centre reopened after a two-year closure during Covid, Screen 2 has grown and Screen 3 has room for private functions.

And they aspire to bring what used to be the main church into use for live events.

“It’s an ideal place,” Mr Lyden said.

“It’s been waiting for us to make it happen.

“We look at viability. We have no doubt the Tower can be a viable asset for the community.

“The owner is very supportive of what we want to do.

“We have thousands of people coming through the door every year. We have looked very carefully at how we can make the place work.

“The last thing we want to do is land Helensburg­h with something that doesn’t work.”

Phase 1 grant funding will allow a full assessment of the building and the cost of purchase and developmen­t.

Phase 2, for the buyout itself, will require a significan­t backing from the community.

Donna Hicks, a member of the steering group and a long-standing volunteer at the Tower, told the meeting they want a new projector and to overhaul the heating system amongst other improvemen­ts.

She said of the group: “I think you would struggle to find six more committed people.”

Councillor Fiona Howard said she got “all the enthusiasm” but was concerned about the details of the building’s ownership and of extracting the Tower from that.

She said: “I want this to work very much.”

But Mr Lyden said: “From day one, us being safe is absolutely paramount. We have been living with this for months. Whoever was involved before will not be involved again.”

HCC voted to support the work of the campaign.

Interim HCC convener Peter Brown said: “I think you have a huge amount of support around this table.”

Mr Lyden replied: “Your support is absolutely key to what we are trying to do.”

 ?? ?? The Tower Digital Arts Centre’s steering group have won the backing of Helensburg­h Communuity Council for their buy-out proposals Image: Save the Tower Arts Centre on Facebook
The Tower Digital Arts Centre’s steering group have won the backing of Helensburg­h Communuity Council for their buy-out proposals Image: Save the Tower Arts Centre on Facebook

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