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Guildhall revamp includes big screen plans
FILM-GOERS who live in Abingdon can look forward to a new arts centre at the Guildhall with a cinema screening about 20 movies a week.
That’s the hope from Abingdon town councillors who are keen to see the building better used.
Earlier this month Berkshire-based architects Lewandowski Willcox was appointed to come up with designs for a £750,000 revamp of the town centre venue.
The work is part of a £1.2m refurbishment for the historic grade II-listed building, parts of which date back to the 1400s.
Guildhall committee chairman Iain Littlejohn said: “Now that the architects have been appointed, we will stage an exhibition in the Guildhall around Easter time, outlining a number of options, before moving to a planning application in the summer.
“The exhibition will include the construction of a model of the building.
“Building work will take six to nine months, with the new centre ready to open towards the end of 2014.
“Ask anyone in this town and they will tell you that a cinema is a big miss and I would like to see a cinema with about 20 screenings a week. We have been to visit the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot and want to create something like that for Abingdon.
“The town hasn’t had a cinema for years and it’s exciting that we have now got to this stage.”
Mr Littlejohn said the town council is seeking grants to take the £750,000 investment closer to £1m.
“The way this kind of funding works is that grant-giving bodies will consider your bid once you have a facility up and running,” he added.
The council aims to turn it into a community venue with a cinema and space for music, exhibitions and weddings.
The plans will include a bar, kitchen, new entrance and lobby and a revamped Abbey Hall with movable seating.
Town clerk Nigel Warner said: “After appointing a team of architects we would like to be in a position to submit a planning application to the Vale of White Horse District Council in the summer.”
In 2011, Abingdon Town Council was given £1.2m to take on the building.
Vale of White Horse District Council was losing £100,000 a year running it as it was only being used up to 20 per cent of its capacity.
A £150,000 restoration of parts of the building hasalready been completed and Johannah Aynsley was appointed manager.
At the moment, film buffs have to rely on the Abingdon College and District Film Society, which shows several movies a month.
Due to Abingdon and Witney College in Wootton Road being redeveloped, the club is moving to new premises, the Resource and Wellbeing Centre in Crabtree Place, off Audlett Drive.
To celebrate, the club has added a free screening to its schedule, of the Alfred Hitchcock chiller Psycho, on Thursday, January 10 at 7.30pm.