Plymouth Arts Centre

38 Looe Street,
Plymouth, PL4 0EB

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Plymouth Arts Centre

Founded in 1947 in a Grade II Listed building, Plymouth Arts Centre was opened by art historian Kenneth Clark. The three storey building, which once had a shop on the ground floor, is one of a significent group of 17th & 18th Century town houses. It was one of seven arts centres set up around the country with funds from the newly established Arts Council of Great Britain. There were gallery spaces, a 61-seat cinema, artist studios, a cafe and bar.

In November 2009 plans to relocated were put on hold after the Centre was granted much less than it had applied for in government funding. The Sea Change initiative, which aimed to regenerate rundown coastal resorts through culture and heritage, offered £100,000, but £4m had been applied for. Local disabled groups were especially disappointed, as they had long campaigned for better accessibility. Sea Change did say that their funding could be used to develop plans for the relocation, but it is unclear whether this funding was actually accepted.

Then, in June 2017, the Centre heard that Arts Council England, which had supported it through its 70 year history, more recently through its National Portfolio funding programme, would not be continuing with its investment. It is unclear why this decision was taken, but many other arts organiations in the city did recieve funding. The Centre’s Board of Trustees looked forward to applying for further funding in the next period, after April 2018, while also considering alternative ways forward.

Perhaps rather ironically, the cinema enjoyed a record year in 2017, with nearly 18, 000 admissions across 135 films. It hosted live event cinema, a film festival, and regular talks by internationally renown film makers such as director Ben Wheatley and Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins.

Unfortunately, despite this, the Board, feeling it was unable to sustain the cinema and visual arts programme, eventually took the difficult decision to sell the building. Negotiations about the film programme took place with the Plymouth College of Art, which had already offered the Centre’s cinema new home. (Andrew Brewerton, chair of the Board of Trustees, was also the principal of Plymouth College of Art). The Centre duly closed in December 2018.

Adopting a new name, Plymouth Arts Cinema, the cinema side re-started at the College on Friday 11th January 2018, while the visual arts developed plans to continue else where. While the move away from its historic premises was naturally, rather disappointing, it has reulted in a near doubling of its seating capacity, and programmer Anna Navas, and her team, will continue to run the ‘new’ Plymouth Arts Cinema (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures).

Contributed by Ken Roe

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Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm

A b&w photograph of the Plymouth Arts Centre in 2008:
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