Appeal for former Filmhouse workers launched as building goes on open market

A crowdfunding appeal has been launched to help workers who suddenly lost their jobs at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) and Filmhouse cinemas – as it emerged their headquarters has gone up for sale.

Former staff have set up an online appeal for a £50,000 welfare fund - part of a campaign to bring the film festival and the Filmhouse cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen back from the dead.

Their sudden closure last month saw the loss of all 107 jobs, with the vast majority of staff kept completely in the dark about its precarious financial situation.

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Some of them took part in a vigil outside the Filmhouse building in Edinburgh, which has been put on the open market without a valuation by the administrators for the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI).

An image from the film The Wizard of Oz projected onto the Filmhouse building in Edinburgh city centre this week. Picture: Jane Barlow

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    The sale of the Lothian Road landmark, which is expected sold to the highest bidder, is described as a “unique leisure-development opportunity.”

    The brochure from selling agents Savills highlights the 1830 building’s location in “a vibrant mixed-use area of Edinburgh with neighbouring uses including offices, residential, bar/restaurant, hotel and theatre.”

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    It states: “We believe the property would be suited to a number of alternative uses, subject to obtaining the necessary consents.”

    The new crowdfunder appeal has been launched days after images of classic films were projected onto Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh and the Filmhouse building, home to the film festival for more than 40 years, to officially launch the campaign.

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    An image of actor Anna Karina from the film Vivre Sa Vie was projected on Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh as part of a campaign to save the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse cinema in the city. Picture: Jane Barlow

    The CMI pulled the plug after an 11th-hour plea for a public funding bail-out was rejected over fears that it was at risk of insolvency.

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    The campaign has pledged to seek "fair treatment” for the CMI’s staff, fight for the future of the Filmhouse and independent cinema in Edinburgh, and ensure the film festival returns.

    More than 22,000 people have already signed an online petition calling for the EIFF and the Filmhouse cinemas to be saved after it was launched by filmmaker Paul Sng and Amanda Rogers, founder of Edinburgh-based film events company Cinetopia.

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    The new welfare fund will be targeted towards helping former staff who worked for less than two years and are not entitled to any redundancy pay, workers who have dependents to provide for and others who have been in precarious situations after the collapse of the arts charity.

    Edinburgh-based director Paul Sng, who is also involved in the campaign to save the film institutions, said: “The short notice given by the CMI to terminate employment for workers has left many former staff in financial difficulty.

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    "Our campaign priorities their welfare and wellbeing. If you’re able to contribute to this crowdfunding campaign, please give what you can.”

    The crowdfunding appeal states: “The CMI Staff Welfare Fund has been established to help support the 107 former employees of EIFF, and the Belmont and Filmhouse cinemas, following the organisation entering administration.

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    "On 6 October, staff were made redundant without warning. This has left many people in very precarious positions with no income and limited support. We are raising money to provide funds to support these staff and avert hardship.

    "Raising £50,000 would allow us to pay 40 members of staff one month’s pay equivalent at the real living wage rate, based on their previously worked hours with a cushion for unforeseen needs.

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    "The model of distribution will offer staff weekly increments of banded packages to best match their previous income and current need.

    "This will also enable us to distribute funds as widely as possible.”