Posted on Wednesday 5 March 2014 by Ulster Business


Mimi Turtle, Chief Executive of Strand Arts Centre and Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director of UCIT take centre stage.

The famous Strand Cinema in East Belfast is to get a significant upgrade, with three new state-of-the-art projectors, thanks to a loan secured from the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).

The initial upgrade will open the door for other planned major improvements and updates set to take place at the cinema. The investment has been made by the new Strand Arts Centre, which is based in the historic cinema.

The Strand first opened its doors as a movie theatre in 1935 occupying a prominent corner site in East Belfast. It was built and furnished in a distinctive style which merged Art Deco with shipyard influences from the nearby Harland and Wolf (features that still remain, such as curved walls and porthole doors and lighting). Due to a lack of modern projectors however, the cinema had not been able to show the newest movies.

Now, in keeping with the demands of modern cinema-goers, the Strand Arts Centre has had to update its systems while retaining the old-fashioned charm for which it is so well known. The new projectors mark the start of a wider refurbishment project currently being undertaken. As the only theatre in East Belfast, The Strand is aiming to provide a multi-tiered experience for those interested in the arts.

The investment means Strand Arts Centre will be able to undertake workshops activities such as a filmmakers club where young people can make their own movies and then showcase them on the big screen through the new projectors. It also ensures the Strand will have digital film capabilities, opening the window for events and participatory-based projects which combine film with other art forms.

Mimi Turtle, Chief Executive of Strand Arts Centre said: "This refurbishment will not only secure the heritage of this movie theatre to the benefit of regular film buffs and local fans of the arts, but will provide a chance for many different entities within the community, such as local primary and secondary schools and charities, to share in the hidden gem that is this theatre. The digital capabilities have ensured The Strand can springboard into new areas of performance art.

"Without these digital projectors we were unable to show a large number of new release films and facilitate a number of performance events due to our lack of facilities. This loan from UCIT will significantly increase our programme of activities, ensuring the Strand Arts Centre is a viable social enterprise which can support numerous employees and the local community."

Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director, UCIT added: "UCIT is delighted to be able to support such an exciting initiative, particularly with Strand Arts Centre's well-structured plan to bring the local community together. It will hopefully mark the beginning of an increase of local interest in the arts.

"This is a great example of UCIT helping to preserve and create employment while also improving the sustainability of a key organisation that is at the heart of our community."

UCIT provides community and social enterprises throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with access to affordable loans. As a registered charity, all profits generated by UCIT are recycled for reinvestment into the social sector.

Since its foundation, UCIT has committed in excess of £46m to over 300 charities, community organisations and social enterprises.


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