Chilwell Arts Theatre is now run by Michael Shillinger and Louise Stevenson and films are only shown on FRIDAY nights.
Word on the street is that Beeston is itching to get its very own cinema, and judging by the activity around the site of the old fire station, it’s on its way! According to Broxtowe Borough Council’s announcement, made around this time last year, we will be welcoming The Arc cinema to Beeston ‘late 2020!’ Sounds impressive, right? But did you know that Beeston already has a cinema? Well technically it’s in Chilwell, but if you drive just five minutes down Queens Road you will find the C.A.T.
Chilwell Arts Theatre might only have one screen, but it is warm and welcoming, has plenty of comfortable seating and ice cream lollies for a quid! Having visited a number of times myself I have always felt that it was much more than an affordable local opportunity to watch a good film. There really is something special about it. Situated at the back of Chilwell School, for those of you that don’t know, there is a rather impressive theatre with seating for 170 potential film buffs.
After cycling down there a few summers ago, the personal greeting from Michael and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere tempted me back. The experience is a quality bit of nostalgia for those people old enough to remember the old-style ‘picture house’ or prefer a night at the Savoy over the Showcase. It’s a place where people meet up to share in an event and make connections with other film lovers. Pick up a quiz sheet as you enter and you might even be lucky enough to win a chocolate bar of your choice.
I met up with Michael this weekend, in between the Saturday matinee and evening performance, to talk about why he started the community theatre, and was fascinated to find that it had been running for over a decade. Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Michael found himself relocating down and up the country. He originally came to Nottingham with his wife, who was pursuing a career change at the time but already knew it was a city he would enjoy living in. He based this opinion on a night out with a mate who was at Trent University at the time he was living in London – a era when he owned a car he really didn’t use, which met its end rusting in front of his house, right opposite the stately home of Tony and Cherie Blair.
After securing a job at Chilwell School as the Arts Development Officer, Michael saw the theatre and was suitably impressed. He teamed up with local lady Ros, who had coincidentally also approached the school about starting a cinema, and Chilwell Arts Theatre was created. The theatre had hosted a few shows but was otherwise underutilised as a space. The cinema is supported by the current head David Phillips and Head of Finance Linda Riddell who value its importance as an asset to the community. The finance for the much larger screen came from the parent partnership, a group of parents who raised funds for Chilwell School, and the cinema takings.
Over the years the cinema has attracted its regulars, who see it as there ‘go to place’ and come along every Friday night to enjoy the show. Michael, who is also an actor and filmmaker, takes care to choose a quality drama that he knows his Friday night audience will like and on Saturday afternoons, it’s a classic. He creates a more edgy feel on Saturday nights, with a film that will challenge the audience in some way, favouring indie over commercial – the most successful of these being I, Daniel Blake. He talks about watching a film as an ‘emotional journey’ and loves that he can provide that for his audience. I am amazed that he keeps the cinema running, despite now living in Cheshire, driving down for the Friday night performance and then staying over with Ros and her family. After leading Young Filmakers on Saturday mornings, it’s back to the theatre for the double bill.
One of the regulars Louise, tells me the community theatre has been such a lifeline for her since she lost her husband two years ago. She feels comfortable to come on her own, as do many other single or widowed locals, something they wouldn’t find so easy at one of the large commercial cinemas. It’s her escape at the end of the week. She describes how it ‘stirs all kinds of emotion’ and makes her ‘stop.’ Louise also mentions how much it has broadened her horizons regarding the type of films she chooses to watch and loves that Michael allows his audience to have a say in the films he shows. A non-profit organisation, C.A.T. doesn’t really have a budget for marketing so Louise puts up posters in the local supermarkets to spread the word. She is particularly keen to tell me about the ‘singalong’ to one of the musical greats that is planned for later in the year – accompanied by Beeston’s Tuneless Choir.
A multiplex cinema might well be a great thing for our town, attracting people from far and wide, but for those Beestonians who prefer a less homogenised more intimate cinema experience, you might want to consider Beeston’s own Broadway, Top C.A.T! In my opinion it really is wonderfully unique, you might even say it’s ‘the leader of the gang.’
You can find out what’s on at Chilwell Arts Theatre on Facebook, the website www. chilwellartstheatre. co.uk or by emailing Michael at michael@ chilwellartstheatre. co.uk and adding your name to the mailing list.