The rare art nouveau cinema in Scotland’s ‘remotest town’

The restored 1930s 'atmospheric' interior of Campbeltown Picture House. PIC: Keith Hunter Photography/Campbeltown Community Business.
The restored 1930s 'atmospheric' interior of Campbeltown Picture House. PIC: Keith Hunter Photography/Campbeltown Community Business.
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Paris, Mexico City and...Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula. Just some of the few places in the world where an atmospheric cinema can still be found.

Campbeltown is often referred to as the most isolated town on the British mainland with its plane and ferry connections often hampered by the weather and Glasgow a good four hours away on the bus.

The interior of the picture house before the renovation. PIC: Contributed.

The interior of the picture house before the renovation. PIC: Contributed.

From this sense of isolation has come great things, however, and when the town’s cinema closed in 1987, there was no way the community was letting it go.

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And with good reason. First opened in 1913, Campbeltown Picture House was one of the first purpose-built cinemas in Scotland.

Designed by Albert V Gardner, it was built in the Glasgow School art nouveau style for the Armour family, who ran the picture house for three generations.

The exterior of the picture house with new cafe to the right. PIC: Keith Hunter Photography/Campbeltown Community Business.

The exterior of the picture house with new cafe to the right. PIC: Keith Hunter Photography/Campbeltown Community Business.

In the early 1930s, Gardner returned to redesign the interior and created an atmospheric cinema, then a bold, fashionable style designed to transport cinema goers into an outdoor environment.

Gardener painted the ceiling with clouds and sky and decorated the cinema walls with a stone effect to mimic surrounding buildings.

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Two small structures, one a castle and the other a Spanish-style villa, which are known locally as the ‘wee houses’ sit at either side of the stage.

A major £3.5m renovation project of the 1930s interior has now finished with Campbeltown Community Business, which runs the cinema now a finalist in Scotland’s Heritage Angels awards, which recognise those who have worked tirelessly to preserve Scotland’s history.

Jane Mayo, chairwoman of Campbeltown Community Business, said: “The picture house is a very important place in the town and people are incredibly proud of what they have here.

“The cinema has been very faithfully restored and we had very good records of the 1930s renovation so we had fantastic detail on the interiors, such as the lighting in the main auditorium.”

“It is very exciting to be nominated for a Scottish Heritage Angel award. It is a great tribute to the community who have a great faith in the building.

“We hope the story of the Campbeltown Picture House will now continue for another 100 years.”

Launched in 2014 and funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation (ALWF), the Scottish Heritage Angel Awards are run by the Scottish Civic Trust, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Archaeology Scotland, the Scottish Heritage Angel Awards.

They celebrate both groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to promote, protect and, in many cases, rescue Scotland’s heritage.