Rye cinema: the prequel

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No one walking up Lion Street can have failed to notice the building work going on at the old library and adult education centre on the right-hand side. The community interest company Fletcher in Rye intends that by the Christmas holidays there will be a state-of-the-art, two-screen cinema complex in place – and it’s going to cost £1.4 million.

That’s a lot of dosh, but thanks to the spectacular show of support from local residents, the business community and an active charitable body – plus major contributions from Kino Digital (owners of the independent Kino cinema in Hawkhurst) and East Sussex County Council Rural Regeneration Team – we’re there. Old buildings always reveal hidden nasties and the Lion Street site was no exception. The first enemy was asbestos. Many buildings of this vintage contain bits of the dreaded stuff, usually in the pipe lagging or boiler room, but we also found it in floor coverings and roof voids. Following specialist removal, it is out. The next step was to make sure we weren’t about to disturb anything of historical significance: enter the county archaeologist and his team to undertake an archaeological survey. More digging – and much tea – and the result is a positive: the men found absolutely nothing! Thirdly, a mass of high capacity cables that loop out and about to feed the town had to be moved. There is an electricity sub-station sandwiched between the rear of The George Hotel and the Lion Street site and the underground cables would have been buried beneath the planned 100-seat auditorium.

UK Power Networks and its sub-contractors turned up on time and, during some of the nastiest weather, dug, cut, shovelled – and drank more tea – and departed content that unrestricted access to the cables has been re-established. With the essential preparatory work complete and total funding assured, the board of Fletcher in Rye has been able to appoint the civil engineering contractor for the scheme. The chosen firm, R. Durtnell & Sons, is on site to undertake a soft strip-out of the buildings which will be followed by the serious business of creating the cinema, with a bar and cafe. This South-East-based company has wide experience in handling complicated construction projects. This scheme is made more so by being contained within three listed buildings at the heart of a conservation area.

The work will continue throughout the year, with doors opening in time for Christmas. What a party that will be.