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February 17, 2010

Ingredients of success

What’s the recipe for turning a crumbling village hall into an award winning, self sufficient community enterprise? Answer: take one great idea, stir in a massive amount of voluntary effort and enthusiasm, sprinkle a small measure of grant funding, turn up the heat and 18 months later….hey presto! –Scotland’s most southerly community cinema opens its doors for business

Scotland’s most southerly cinema has been recognised in the Countryside Alliance’s “rural Oscars”.

Machars Movies in the Isle of Whithorn took the top honour in the rural enterprise category.

The fifth annual awards attracted a record 2,500 nominations from right across Britain.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said judges had been impressed with a project that the local community had “started from scratch”.

He said: “I don’t think there is another enterprise quite like it.

“Machars Movies has the distinction of being the most southerly cinema in Scotland at the isolated Isle of Whithorn, population 300.

“Volunteers have worked hard to see the crumbling St Ninian’s Hall become an all-purpose venue with an 80-seat cinema, and undertook the repairs, decoration and promotion of the project themselves.”

He said the scheme had proved to be a financial success.

“From grant funding, Machars Movies is now self-funding,” he said.

“Better than that, it returns its profits to the village hall and other local projects, so in turn provides essential facilities for a variety of village groups.

“The judges were impressed that the community started this project from scratch, providing a now-vital social enterprise in an isolated rural location.”

This small community cinema, the most southerly in Scotland at the Isle of Whithorn, and serving the small villages and towns of the Machars Peninsula in Wigtownshire came into being in April 2009, thanks to a grant from Scottish Screen’s Digital Projection Equipment Fund awarded last January. Coupled with further support funding from the Isle of Whithorn’s community Regeneration charity, Isle Futures; the Scottish Arts Council and Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Village Hall Improvement Scheme, and along with much voluntary labour, St Ninian’s Hall – the home of Machars Movies – is now an all-purpose venue complete with an 80-seat cinema.

It is one of 11 licensed Cinemas in Dumfries & Galloway, and following an inaugural season of well-attended monthly screenings, Machars Movies’ 2010 programme, selected by popular vote of the cinema’s patrons, has been drawn up. It will be launched on Thursday, December 10th, and full details can be found on the cinema website

Entrants for the awards are nominated by the public and judged by a panel of experts who visited the companies and individuals shortlisted for the categories. Each of the categories highlights important elements of community life in rural Scotland, and each year the awards attract an increasing number of nominations.

Presenting the Awards, Mr John Lamont, MSP for Roxburgh & Berwickshire, said: “These awards recognise the hard work and innovation of businesses and organisations which are vital to rural Scotland.”

Mike Marshall, who is the Chair for Machars Movies, and Kenny Barr, Chair of Isle Futures, the community Regeneration Charity expressed their delight at the accolade: “Machars Movies and the Cinema facility that we now have has become a vital component in ensuring that a viable business can be developed around the community’s most vital social asset – its village hall. In the short space of eighteen months a run-down building has been taken over by the community and transformed into a venue with considerable business potential. But equally important, we are providing a new, highly social focus within the Machars where surrounding communities can participate and share in the great experience of the moving image. At last we can tap into the great wealth of material that is available for us all to see, to be entertained, and occasionally be challenged, no matter what age.”