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October 8, 2014

When is a building worth saving?

Old, crumbling buildings, particularly ones which hold some iconic status for a community, can be a real millstone around the collective neck. The steady decline towards dereliction is painful to watch but buildings also need to serve some kind of useful purpose to justify investing all that time and money in restoration. Having a clear end use for a building is the biggest challenge for any community heritage project. Next month the community heritage movement gather in Crieff, hoping to be inspired by stories such as the Birks Cinema.




The restoration of the Birks Cinema in Highland Perthshire is to be used as an example to guide and inspire heritage projects across Scotland.

Community groups and volunteers from across the country will gather in Crieff next month for Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference.

The event celebrates the contribution made by such dedicated people and looks to the next round of ambitious developments.

It will feature presentations on projects throughout the country, at sites ranging from cinemas and chapels to allotments.

Over two days there will also be a series of training workshops to help develop and deliver heritage projects.

One of the key contributors will be the Friends of Birks Cinema, who made the stunning rebirth of the building a reality.

The group was established in early 2006 by Charlotte Flower and two other members of the Heartland Film Society in Aberfeldy.

They wanted to explore the possibility of restoring the town’s cinema to create a community-run arts hub with a 104-seat digital screen and café/bar.

The 470-seat Birks Cinema was the location for many first dates and family outings until it closed in the early 1980s.

Until 2004 it was used as an amusement arcade but the building had long since begun to deteriorate and it was in a perilous state by the time it was bought by the Friends in 2009.

Their vision may have seemed just a dream, given the funds that required to be raised, but with extraordinary support from members of the community, trusts, businesses and individual supporters such as actor Alan Cumming, it became a reality.

The conference takes place at Crieff Hydro Hotel on November 8 and 9.