Light House Cinema, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer St, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT
The importance of independent cinema cannot be overstated. Not only does the independent cinema represent a localised variant of the community arts hub, but it also re-introduces an inherent sense of magic back into the cinematic experience, all-too-easily lost with the advent of the multiplex and chain-brand.
The city of Birmingham has no less than three independent cinemas, but further afield the Black Country enjoys the services of only one establishment; the Light House Cinema. Located in Wolverhampton city centre, the Light House has existed for over two decades as a cultural hub, a pillar of the arts community directly plugged into the local consciousness offering everything from showings of the latest blockbuster hit to independent arts showcases.
However, as with countless other arts venues throughout the UK, the Light House now faces financial hardship, its future uncertain without support from the local community. Luckily, the complex is directly plugged into the heart of the Black Country, working to engage the local populace in everything from language cafes to rental of the space for private events. In The City Magazine caught up with Light House CEO Kelly Jeffs about how people can support the historical enterprise and why the Light House is important to so many people.
“The Light House is the Black Country’s only independent cinema and we have been housed in the Chubb Buildings for the past 26 years. Our key objective is to present great films, a diverse range of products that can encourage people to utilise this venue as a creative and cultural hub rather than just a cinema. We are all about giving people a warm and safe place to come and chat, and while they are here they have exclusive use of our space.
We feel there could be a lot more engagement culturally in Wolverhampton and we work with a lot of different demographics to help that happen. We have a full programme of films every evening across our two screens, but we also provide local language communities a space where they can meet and also look to integrate that into what else we do.We are also actively involved in health and wellbeing initiatives. Our “singing for lung health” has been growing week-on-week and the event is actually part of their therapy and recovery process. We also have a brain tumour support group. for this, it’s not always just about the person who is ill but as a way to support their families too.
We have a great foundation of people that want to help and support us, especially amongst our older patrons. We are a part of their week and the cinema offers them a sense of independence. They will plan their months with us and actively want to be part of discussions, asking questions like “what will we like?” so they can come again. It’s such an amazing thing to see, that we are part of the fabric of their lives.
The Light House has a mixed income stream, with donations, grant income from the local authority, commercial income from the ticket sales and other commercial income from the hire of the venue and the cafe/bar.
The public funding side has depleted year on year and we have had to think about our business plan – how to plug that gap without compromising our service, without compromising our identity and without turning into something we don’t believe we are. To do that, we have looked at a few things. One of these is that we are looking to get some signage on the building. We have been here for over 25 years and it has been talked about for many years, but has never quite happened.
We now have money ready (thanks to a crowdfunder done last year), have quotes from companies and are going through the design process. We feel the signage will give us an opportunity to re-launch, of a kind, to give people a new perspective on us as a business.
We also offer private hire of our facilities. Given enough time to prepare, we can organise to put on specialist films or showcase new talent – be it a film-maker, a music video producer or other creative type. The hire also extends to our on-site cafe/bar and a beautiful Victorian courtyard that, back in the day, was one of the busiest nightclubs in Wolverhampton. We also hire out our gallery space to local artists. That helps us cover the costs and gives us a space to showcase their talent.
I am a firm believer in choice – the more choice you have in the place you live, the better. It creates a critical mass of activity and it gives people a sense that their home has a buzz about it. We are very lucky to have an independent cinema, but that makes it all the more important to keep it going because once it’s gone, it is gone forever.” – Kelly Jeffs, Light House CEO
What you can do to support the Light House
Advertise! On a corporate level, the Light House is looking to solicit sponsorship from local businesses. If you are the owner of a local business, or know somebody who could benefit, advise them to contact Kelly or the Light House team. Sponsorship can take the form of everything from direct advertising on-screen before a film, to logo placement on the programme.
Donate! As a charity, the Light House benefits greatly from donations from the general public. To donate, visit https://localgiving.org/charity/lovelighthouse/.
Become a Friend of the Light House! Much like donations, becoming a Friend of the Light House is a great way to support the business and comes with perks, like £1 off all cinema tickets, or a movie poster from the Light House archives. To join up, visit the official website; light-house.co.uk/who-we-are/friends
Hire! The cinema, cafe/bar and courtyard areas of the Chubb Buildings are all available for private and commercial hire. For more details, contact the venue directly.
Visit! Possibly the single-most important aspect of supporting the Light House is to actually make use of its services. Located in the city centre, right next to the train and bus stations, the Light House is easy to find and prices are much cheaper than your local multiplex. Patrons of the cinema help to keep it in business and are crucial in spreading the word.