Liam Rudden: The Caley Picture House is the main feature

The Caley Picture House on Lothian Road. Pic: Liam Rudden
The Caley Picture House on Lothian Road. Pic: Liam Rudden
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MANY moons ago, back when Espionage was called Nicky Tams, a plea went out for glass collectors.

The manager needed all hands on deck at his latest venue, The Caley Palais on Lothian Road, and his locals were being roped in to help.

Originally a well loved cinema, The Caley Picture House has enjoyed numerous incarnations in its lifetime.

Later it would be transformed into Century 2000, a nightclub, which in turn morphed into Revolution, before becoming a live music venue known simply as The Picture House.

Today, with another refurbishment to its credit, it has reverted its original moniker and is the latest acquisition of the Wetherspoon pub chain.

But I digress.

Back in the 80s, a night in Nicky’s came to a premature end with the aforementioned call to arms.

The Boomtown Rats were playing The Caley Palais and a massive crowd was expected. Surprising, as it was a good five or six years since their heyday - Google suggests it was 10 February 1985.

Must have been a comeback tour or something.

Still, the promise of a free gig and few pints in return for collecting empty glasses seemed like the perfect tonic.

That was the first time I’d ever been inside The Caley.

Dark and dreary, memories of that night are (despite the fact it had already been designated a Grade B Listed building) that the place had seen far, far better days.

One other impression that has stayed with me to this day is that the stage on which Geldof and co performed was stupidly high.

Since then, I’ve only visited a couple of times. A night exploring Century 2000 was just that, one night. Revolution I managed to avoid altogether. I think. Though there may have been one very drunken escapade that ended up there.

There were a couple of gigs too, come to think of it.

What never failed to impress me on those visits was the implied grandeur of the wood-panelled lobby and stairwells that led to the main hall and balcony. It suggested the building still had great potential.

Last week, on a whim, I popped in to catch the latest ‘reel’ in the building’s story and admit to being impressed. The sensitive nature of the refurbishment preserves and highlights original features.

A large sepia print of Castle Street, where the old screen would have been, is a particularly effective touch.

The elaborate 50ft wide proscenium arch too has been restored in glorious gold and black.

But perhaps the highlight, however, was overhearing couples and friends revisiting their pasts together.

Watching as they explored once familiar environs with older eyes and recalled the adventures they’d had there, either watching movies, disco-dancing, or seeing their favourite band. The smiles were quite something.

Love or loathe a Wetherspoon’s, and many do both, it has to be said they’ve done The Caley proud.