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  • Articles published about the project, The Press & Journal

    Following articles have been published in newspaper The Press & Journal, Scotland:
    (Also several articles in The newspaper The Huntly Express will be uploaded later)

    EX-PROJECTIONIST THROWS LIGHT ON CINEMA’S RICHES

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 21 January 2006
    ANDY PHILIP.

    A Retired film projectionist is longing for one last chance to explore a derelict north-east cinema he thinks is brimming with treasures - before the bulldozers move in. The former Huntly Palace has been boarded up for more than 20 years and has been earmarked by developers for housing.

    Gordon McTavish, 75, is worried that valuable film relics, hidden frescoes and priceless local history will be lost if demolition goes ahead. His dream of searching hidden corners of the Gordon Street building could yet come true, through an unlikely source.

    Danish artist Elsebeth Jørgensen, who has travelled Europe over two years to document historic cultural buildings, has turned her lens on the Aberdeenshire town.
    Council officials are considering giving her permission to film the inside of the crumbling site as part of her project to record the final act in the cinema’s history. Mr McTavish, of Park Street North, Huntly, hopes he can join her and help uncover some forgotten history.

    As a 13-year-old in 1943, he was given permission to take a job at the cinema because his dad was dying of cancer. He said: “I know the place inside-out and would love the chance to have a look around, there are so many treasures in there that I hope haven’t been destroyed or lost already.” He’s worried that council planners have no idea about the secrets lying beneath the plaster work.
    He added: “The old owner, an eccentric man called “Palace” Jack, was a great painter and drew scenes of Venice over the walls. They were covered over as sound proofing in later years. I’ve no idea if anyone knows about that. “There is also at least one silent movie he filmed of the Huntly gala in the 1950s which, as local history, would be a terrible shame to lose.” He even got a sneak preview of the D-Day landings as a teenager when troops were given secret film briefings of invasion plans behind closed doors at the cinema. “I was of course ordered to forget everything I heard,” he added.

    Over the following 25 years he built up a personal collection of gramophone records, bought with his own pocket money, to play before film showings. He added: “There’s one record that’s in there somewhere which I used to play each time a particular old couple came in. The woman used to give me sixpence to play her favourite song. Her son, a pensioner now, is still in Huntly and I’d love to find it and present it to him.”

    Huntly-based Deveron Arts invited artist Ms Jørgensen to involve local people in her project. Director Claudia Zeiske said: “She’s gathering together a few people who used to work there and interviewed some last year. She hopes to come back in February to film the inside and set up a screening to do with the history in Huntly.”
    Movies about film history will be run at the town’s Stewart’s Hall and public meetings will give people the chance to discuss cinema culture over the coming months.

    A planning application for the demolition of the former picture house is being determined by Aberdeenshire Council. A separate application from a housing developer outlines plans to build around 15 flats on the site. Senior surveyor with the council, Ron Davidson, said: “Anything left in the building is owned by the council. We would obviously hope to retrieve anything of worth for museum collections.”

    ARTIST DRAWS A BLANK OVER CINEMA’S SECRETS

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 16 February 2006
    ANDY PHILIP

    A Danish artist has been on a mission to discover the hidden secrets of a derelict north-east cinema. The former Huntly Palace has been boarded up for more than 20 years and is in line to make way for housing.

    Artist Elsebeth Jørgensen managed to talk her way into the crumbling Gordon Street building after a plea from former workers who had been denied entry. One former projectionist, Gordon McTavish, 75, was certain the old film house was full of film treasures and wanted to find out if any of his old records were still hidden in a corner.

    Ms Jørgensen, who is on a two-year journey to document old cultural buildings across Europe, was sent in alone for four hours to take photographs. She said: “Gordon made me a little treasure map and marked the route through the place from memory - I felt a bit like Indiana Jones.”
    Hopes of a vast treasure were dashed when the artist emerged back into daylight. She said: “The place was ruined, it was quite sad. I had a good look around but it was just full of pigeons. Anything that may have been there has been taken out.”

    Mr McTavish, of the town’s Park Street North, said he was disappointed all artefacts appeared to have gone from the town-centre cinema. “Elsebeth said it was just a shell, with holes in the roof and the floor littered with dead rats and pigeons. It is sad, but I still have my memories of the palace as it was.” A former owner nicknamed Palace Jack was a keen amateur artist, and covered the walls of the cinema with his paintings of Venice. They were later covered with soundproofing, but the modern-day explorer found no traces of the artwork, said Mr McTavish. “We’ll never see the paintings now. It will all be bulldozed.” The Danish artist added: “For an artist, it’s really interesting, but for people who worked there, it must be very disappointing. It was really weird in there.”

    The meaning of cinema in relation to local life and memory will be explored next week in the nearby Stewart’s Hall in Huntly. Ms Jørgensen, who has photographed closed-down or converted cinemas during her travels, will be hosting a cinema evening at 7.30pm, with free admission. The event will be the first of three in her cinemagic tour project. The artist turned her lens on the Aberdeenshire town after meeting Claudia Zieske, director of Huntly-based Deveron Arts.

    Ms Jørgensen, who praised the support she had received from the local council in Huntly, will also be lecturing on cinema history at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, on Friday. A planning application for the demolition of the former picture house is being determined by Aberdeenshire Council. A separate application from a housing developer outlines plans to build around 15 flats on the site.

    FILM TREASURES REVEALED BY CRUMBLING CINEMA

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 25 February 2006
    ANDY PHILIP

    Hidden treasures from a derelict north-east cinema have been rescued for future generations. The former Huntly Palace is due to be knocked down to make way for flats.

    Following a campaign led by a visiting Danish artist, the doors were opened one last time and artefacts from the building’s heyday were saved from the bulldozer’s path. Elsebeth Jørgensen had been given permission by Aberdeenshire Council to enter and film the crumbling cinema on Gordon Street last week. She was keen to find reminders of a former manager, nicknamed Palace Jack, who was a keen amateur artist and had covered the walls with his paintings of Venice. The murals were later covered with soundproofing and no traces of the artwork were discovered.

    On her final visit with former projectionist Gordon McTavish earlier this week, she uncovered a haul of memorabilia hidden beneath decades of grime. Miss Jørgensen said: “We found old wages books, managers’ reports and signs from outside the building. It was very dark and there was a lot a damage.”
    Among the artefacts was a 3ft-high collection box in the shape of a child which once stood at the ticket office. “I thought I’d stumbled across a dead body when my torch passed over it,” she added. Film posters advertising the 1967 Elvis Presley film, Easy Come, Easy Go, and Jane Fonda’s The Love Cage, were also discovered.

    Miss Jørgensen continued: “I was in for about an hour-and-a-half then was allowed to take Gordon in for the last five minutes. It was quite emotional.”

    The 37 rescued items were moved to the Brander Museum, at Huntly, where they will eventually go on show. Museum assistant Ian Bonner said: “They’re being moved to a store in Mintlaw to be cleaned. There are some lovely examples among the items. There’s a poster of a Vera Lynn show, art deco lamps and even part of the original screen.”

    Ms Jørgensen came to Huntly as part of a two-year project recording old cultural buildings across Europe. She was invited across by locally based Deveron Arts. She said the Aberdeenshire leg of the tour had captured the imagination of locals, who made the whole project possible. She was helped by master joiner Duncan Anderson, Aberdeenshire Council, The Scottish and Danish arts councils, Deveron Arts and former cinema employees, among others.

    A planning application for the demolition of the former picture house is to be determined by Aberdeenshire Council. A separate application from a housing developer has outlined plans to build around 15 flats on the site.

    History of Huntly

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 21 march 2006

    THE history of Huntly will be on show at a screening of old films in the town on Thursday. The event is part of ongoing work to document local cultural history in light of a recent decision to demolish a derelict cinema building. Gordon McTavish, ex-projectionist at the former Huntly Palace, will show the two films at Stewart’s Hall, Gordon Street. Film of Huntly Gala week from 1951 will be shown with a Laurel and Hardy movie at the nostalgic event. Danish artist Elsebeth J??rgensen organised the event as part of a project to document closed and converted cinemas across Europe. The free event starts at 7.30pm. For more information contact Deveron Arts on 01466 794494.

    In The Picture

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 24 march 2006

    PLANS to demolish a former Huntly cinema will be debated next week. Aberdeenshire councillors on the Marr area committee have been asked to approve the plans to replace the derelict cinema, at Gordon Street, with 15 flats. The application, lodged by Aberdeen-based Grampian Construction, will be discussed at the town’s Stewart’s Hall on Tuesday.

    HUNTLY CINEMA GETS OWN SCREENING

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 25 April 2006
    ANDY PHILIP

    A Derelict Aberdeenshire cinema will be turned inside-out as part of a nostalgic exhibition later this week. Images from the crumbling Huntly picture house, in Gordon Street, will be beamed across its outside walls on Thursday night.

    The unusual event is part of a Danish artist’s tour of former cultural buildings throughout Europe. Elsebeth Jørgensen became interested in the market town’s once thriving cinema culture and managed to get permission to film the inside of the former Huntly Palace.

    The ageing building is expected to be demolished and turned into flats.
    Miss Jørgensen was the first member of the public to step inside the cinema in around 20 years and managed to rescue many original features and film memorabilia. She said: “This project has sparked a great deal of interest and fond memories, particularly among the older generations in Huntly.”

    The event begins at 6.30pm at the Brander Museum, The Square, where rescued artefacts will be on show.

    At 7.30pm, former projectionist Gordon McTavish will deliver a talk at the Stewarts Hall during a reception. The action then moves to the former cinema at 9pm.

    Miss Jørgensen said: “A projection of images from inside the building will be screened onto the boarded-up frontage, so that exhibition-goers and passers-by will finally see what lies behind the walls, as if the doors have been opened one last time.”

    Miss Jørgensen came to Huntly as part of a two-year project called “cinemagic”. She was invited by locally based Deveron Arts.

    CURTAIN GOES UP ON CINEMA’S LAST PERFORMANCE

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 28 April 2006
    ANDY PHILIP

    The curtain was raised on an unusual show at a derelict north-east cinema last night. Images from inside the former Huntly Palace were beamed across its boarded-up front wall on Gordon Street.

    The event was part of a nostalgic project by Danish artist Elsebeth Jørgensen who was given permission to film the cinema’s decaying interior ahead of planned demolition. Miss Jørgensen organised the unusual show as part of three events in the town last night.
    Rescued artefacts from the cinema went on show at the Brander Museum, at The Square, at 6.30pm. An hour later, former projectionist Gordon McTavish delivered a talk at the Stewarts Hall during a reception.

    Miss Jørgensen first came to the town as part of a two-year European tour to document former cultural buildings. The artist became interested in the market town’s once thriving cinema culture and managed to get permission to film the inside of the cinema.

    The ageing building is expected to be demolished and turned into flats. She was the first member of the public to step inside the cinema in about 20 years and managed to rescue many original features and film memorabilia. Miss Jørgensen said: “It’s really fantastic for me to do this. The whole thing has taken on a life of its own. It generated a lot of interest locally in a way I didn’t expect.”

    She plans to return to Denmark early next week.

    CINEMA SITE DELAY

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 5 April 2006

    A FINAL decision on the future of a derelict Huntly cinema has been postponed. Aberdeenshire councillors yesterday said they needed more details of plans to replace the former Huntly Palace, on Gordon Street, with flats and a car park. Developers have been asked to submit more plans.

    REELING IN THE DECADES

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 06 April 2006
    LYNN KERNAN

    Aberdeen once boasted more cinema seats per head than any other city in Britain. But these days picture houses are few and far between with many of the former film venues transformed into pubs, clubs and houses.

    The future of the Huntly Palace on the town’s Gordon Street is the latest to be debated. There are plans to bulldoze it to make way for 15 new flats. Aberdeenshire council’s Marr Area Committee has deferred a decision on the fate of the derelict building until next month. From the outside it looks like it should be demolished. But earlier in the year, behind the grubby facade, researchers discovered years of movie memorabilia.

    Danish artist Elsebeth Jørgensen led a campaign to delve into the rubble of the boarded-up cinema which has been out of use for more than 20 years. Among the treasures were old wages books, posters, cinema signs and a 3ft-high collection box in the shape of a boy which once stood at the ticket office.

    North-east people may be surprised to learn most of us pass at least one former movie theatre every day. Connie Leith, of Ferryhill Heritage Society, said: “Going to the cinema was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the city, and I used to go three or four times a week.

    “The Cinema House, on Skene Terrace, was my local but if we went with my father he would take us to the more plush cinemas like the Capitol or the Odeon.” And Connie recalls seeing an up-and-coming star who she thought would never make it. “I went to the Capitol to see Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender but I didn’t know if he would take off.”

    At one time the Granite City had one seat for every seven people - double the capacity of London. Aberdeen’s first permanent cinema, The Gaiety, opened its doors in 1908. Its original use is still being honoured as it is now the Vue.
    Among the city theatres was the glitzy City Cinema on George Street which opened in 1933 and originally sat 2,500. It closed in 1963 and was converted into the former Megabowl which closed its doors at the end of last year. Queen’s Cinema on Union Street shut up shop in 1981 and is now the Espionage nightclub. A few doors along was the Capitol - now two clubs, Chicago Rock Cafe and Jumpin Jaks.

    HUNTLY CINEMA TO MAKE WAY FOR FLATS

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 03 May 2006
    CLAIRE ELLIOT

    A Piece of Huntly’s past is set to be wiped out and replaced with 15 flats.

    Councillors yesterday unanimously backed plans to demolish the town’s former cinema building to make way for the development.

    Hidden treasures from inside the crumbling Huntly Palace, which is in the heart of a conservation area, have already been recovered for future generations.

    A report to the Marr area committee said the demolition “was an opportunity to improve the appearance of the main approach to the town square”. The proposal is to knock down the cinema building, which has lain derelict for a number of years, and redevelop the site, including land to the rear of Wright’s saddlers shop on Gordon Street.

    The report said: “The site of the cinema in isolation would not be large enough to accommodate a well-designed scheme, therefore, the proposal includes the site area to the rear of the former saddler’s shop. “The shop building will be retained in its current form on the street frontage but a three storey and two storey rear wing, along with a garage building would be demolished.” An upper level flat would also be kept and a two-storey link to the rear of shop would be created, incorporating a shop storage area, bin storage and cycle park on the ground floor and two additional bedrooms for the existing flat on the first floor. This would link to a three storey block of nine two-bedroomed properties and a further six two-bedroomed flats would be located in a separate block to the rear of the site. Parking for 29 cars is also included in the plans, 13 of which would be open to the public on a pay and display basis.

    The application received one objection from a worried resident concerned about the impact the development would have on surrounding homes. The report to councillors, however, said: “The design and layout of the flats have been the subject of ongoing discussion and it is considered that the current proposal would result in a scheme which would enhance the character of the conservation area.” Councillors unanimously agreed to delegate approval of the scheme to planning bosses, subject to various conditions.

    CINEMA TO BE RAZED FOR HOMES

    The Press & Journal, Aberdeen, Scotland - 04 May 2006

    An Abandoned cinema in the North-east will be torn down and turned into flats.

    Aberdeenshire councillors have backed Grampian Construction’s plan to build 15 homes at the former Palace picture house site in Huntly. But the Marr Area Committee members demanded the bulldozers be kept out until a full photographic record of cinema is made.

    Earlier this year, Danish artist Elsebeth Jørgensen led a campaign to delve into the rubble of the boarded-up picture house. And she discovered treasures such as old wages books, posters, cinema signs and a 3ft-high collection box in the shape of a boy which once stood at the ticket office.