The Heritage Lottery Fund [ HLF] – the organisation that funded much of the renovation of Penarth Pier Pavilion – has said it cannot force the Pavilion leaseholders – Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd – to re-open the Pavilion’s 3-year-old 68-seat digital cinema.
The Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, Richard Bellamy, has now given his most detailed exposition yet of the problems that currently beset the Pier Pavilion, its integral cinema, and the building’s leaseholders Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd [ a.k.a PACL].
In a letter to local resident Andrew Jones – who has campaigned to get the Pavilion Cinema re-opened – a great deal of hitherto undisclosed information is made public for the first time.
Mr Bellamy says the information he has received is as the result of responses he’s received from Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd. In his letter Mr Bellamy reveals that :-
- The Pavilion Cinema was originally described as a “multi-functional auditorium” within the renovated Penarth Pier Pavilion – not a cinema, per se.
- The idea of including projection equipment capable of providing “cinema-quality films” was – HLF now claims – “a very late addition to the project” .
- Mr Bellamy states “We [ i.e. the Heritage Lottery Fund] therefore do not consider that we funded a Cinema”. – a statement which appears to suggest that the Heritage Lottery Fund may now be distancing itself from the original decision to incorporate the cinema in the restored Penarth Pier Pavilion – or perhaps was never involved in that decision in the first place.
- Mr Bellamy goes on to say that “ The experience of three years of operation has shown that rather than a source of income, a 6-days-a-week cinema offer, in the traditional sense, actually costs the Pavilion money.”
- He says Heritage Lottery Fund “will not compel PACL to provide a facility or service that might put at risk the long-term sustainability of the building”
There is also sotto-voce criticism of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd [PACL] in Mr Bellamy’s letter . He says :-
- “I am sure the PACL [sic] would not defend every aspect of their approach to marketing the facilities available at the Pavilion building, and part of the grant we have awarded to the organisation [i.e. the latest grant of £126,000] will allow them to take more professional advice on what they do going forward with this aspect of their business.”
- “I think PACL do need to provide the public with more information as to the future direction of the organisation.”
- “PACL acknowledge that they face serious challenges in securing a sustainable future for the Pavilion Building”
- “If nothing was wrong with way the building has been run for its first 3 years, and every decision that had been made was the correct one, then further support to enable change would not be necessary. It is clear that this is not the case…”
Mr Bellamy’s letter also reveals a new initiative to restore what was once a team of more than 100 volunteers to help run Penarth Pier Pavilion – a team which has now dwindled to a handful.
Part of the HLF £126,000 grant [ referred to above] is to be “used to employ a coordinator to support existing volunteers and gradually rebuild a volunteer base with the skills and experience the Pavilion will need to support a sustainable future”.
As Wales HLF head, Mr Bellamy also stresses the support that PACL and the Pavilion will need in the future from the public.
He says :- ” It will need users of its facilities, volunteers to help staff and support its events programme and, more than likely, donors willing to financially support elements of its operation that are not commercially self-supporting. In order to achieve this support PACL will need to successfully communicate its plans for the future and I will be urging them to do so once they have been fully formed and financially tested.”
The Vale of Glamorgan Council – which owns Penarth Pier and leases the Pier Pavilion to Penarth Arts and Crafts – has also contributed large sums of public money to the renovation. It holds a permanent seat on the board of PACL for a nominee/trustee/director but has yet to appoint a successor to former Labour councillor Gwyn Roberts who held the position until he resigned in February this year. The new Conservative administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council is due to nominate a successor to Gwyn Roberts next week.
Meanwhile Penarth Pier Pavilion has become a local General Election issue with both Labour and Conservative candidates claiming involvement.
Conservative candidate Bill Rees says, in his latest leaflet, that ” If elected I will be a strong voice for local people,championing the cause of the Pier Pavilion”
Labour candidate Stephen Doughty in his most recent election circular says “We all want the Pier Pavilion and Cinema open full-time and working sustainably. I have been working with everyone involved asking challenging questions to ensure that challenges are addressed” [sic] .
PDN NOTE: The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had contributed £1,784,800 in public money to PACL towards the £4,200,000 cost of renovating Penarth Pier Pavilion and had awarded a further £200,000 from its Coastal Communities Fund . This year HLF received a further request for financial help from PACL and awarded the not for profit company/charity a further grant of £126,000.
Against the background of PACL’s decision in February this year to close the Pavilion Cinema from March 6th and to reduce the opening hours of the Pavilion itself, Penarth resident Andrew Jones had formally queried the decision to award a second grant to PACL. The letter from Mr Bellamy is a second response from HLF as the first response had not dealt with all the issues Mr Jones had raised.
Almost half of the money (46%) which is staked by people buying tickets for the National Lottery is not re-distributed in prize-money to lottery players, but is spent on “worthy causes” by the Heritage Lottery Fund. All the money is public money.