A new initiative to develop a community cinema in Bradford has been given a boost with the help of £10,000.00 from the Big Lottery. The Mechanics Institute in Eccleshill, the former site of the Eccleshill Picture House which was opened in 1911. The team at Bradford City of Film have been working in partnership with staff at Eccleshill to offer advise on film licenses and the loan of film equipment. Following a successful pilot the centre on Institute Road has been successful in an application to the Big Lottery fund to buy their own projector, screen and sound system to allow them to screen films and host film events on a regular basis.
1911 was also the year that Bradford cinema pioneer Cecil Wray opened Wray’s Film Agency for hiring out films to other picture halls in the region and this was situated directly opposite the Eccleshill Picture House on Institute Road. Wray was regarded as one of the film pioneers of the era and a very prominent figure on those early days of the film industry in Bradford through his business connection with other entrepreneurs. He also produced his own Kine-Optiscope – a device which enabled short film strips to be shown using an ordinary magic lantern.
Early films at Eccleshill had piano accompaniment and the screen was a white sheet which flapped about in the draught.
Director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, David Wilson said: ‘We are delighted to be working with the Eccelshill Mechanics Institute on this initiative which gives the local community a chance to enjoy films and socialise in their own locality. The fact that the venue is also linked to Bradford’s rich film heritage is a superb bonus. Local volunteers will help to decide the film schedule and we are also looking forward to hosting a number of Memory Bank Bradford workshops at the venue.’’
Michael Kenefick, Manager of Eccleshill Community Association (Mechanics Institute) said; ‘We are delighted with the award from the Big Lottery and the ongoing partnership with Bradford UNESCO City of Film. The Mechanics Institute is a thriving community space and there was a lot of excitement and great feedback from the pilot screening of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel back in October 2015. Using the new equipment we plan to develop regular monthly film screenings and work with a number of volunteers of securing some varied and interesting titles and where possible, some guest speakers.’