A much-loved Rhondda cinema and theatre has a bright future ahead thanks to a massive £175,000 investment programme.
Thanks to the Community Economic Development Programme, Arts Council for Wales and the Coalfields Trust, the Phoenix Centre in Ton Pentre will enjoy a major overhaul.
Delivered in partnership by a consortium of Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen County Borough Councils, the Community Economic Development Programme is supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Through the Programme, the Centre will benefit from state-of-the-art digital cinema equipment that is desperately needed due to developments in modern technology which makes the traditional 35mm film outdated.
This will allow the Centre, which is based in the former Ton Pentre Workingmen’s Hall, to show current films in an improved format, which will attract even more people to visit the facility. The investment will enable the Centre to employ a Marketing Officer to promote the cinema and theatre and increase community involvement within the centre as well as employ a projectionist.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development & Community Safety Cllr Paul Cannon: “The purpose of the Community Economic Development Programme is to build sustainable and vibrant communities through the development of community economic activity and social enterprises.
“The benefits to Rhondda Cynon Taf are widespread and we hope this package will make a positive and lasting difference to the Phoenix Centre in Ton Pentre as it has become such an important community resource for the valley.
“We are doing all we can to ensure our businesses and town centres secure the investment and support they need to continue to thrive, especially in this tough economic climate.”
The Programme is aimed at supporting and developing sustainability within the third sector, and reducing their reliance upon grant support. It provides a mix of development and financial support to those that have ambitions to develop into economically sustainable organisations within the third sector, such as voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals.
Run by the Rhondda Community Business Initiative, the Phoenix Centre has also been successful in obtaining further funding of almost £70,000 from the Arts Council of Wales and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to help refurbish the auditorium which is also used as theatre.
A spokesperson on behalf of the Arts Council of Wales said: “The investment of almost £50,000 from the Arts Council of Wales is providing the area with significantly improved facilities to enhance the experience for both the audience and performers alike. It’s also created tremendous improvements to the theatre as a whole giving the local community a considerably increased choice of titles, more films and an artistic experience featuring the very latest in digital cinema technology right on their doorstep.”
The Phoenix Centre’s Community Development Worker Neal Hammond explained, “These grants will help us to work towards a sustainable future for the Phoenix Centre, in line with the aims and objectives of the original trustees of the Hall and Institute.
“We are grateful to our main funders – the South East Wales Community Economic Development Fund for the digital cinema equipment, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust for enabling us to change to a more energy efficient heating system, the Arts Council of Wales for funding the refurbishment of the theatre, and finally the Wales Co-operative Centre for providing training and upgraded ICT equipment.
“It has not been easy to put together such a co-ordinated package, but we have succeeded thanks to the patience and excellent support we have received from all our partners.”
Ton Pentre Workingmen's Hall and Institute is a Grade II listed building originally constructed in 1895 next to the Crawshay Bailey Estate Office.
The institute was built from subscriptions from the Maindy and Eastern collieries and comprised of a library, news room, refreshment room and committee room, along with other functional areas. A theatre hall was added in 1904 designed by architect, Jacob Hall.
In 1908 the hall was rented out to a private company for showing early silent movies. In 1931 it was upgraded to allow the playing of “talkies”, and continued as a cinema until 1971 when it became a bingo hall. It was closed in 1989 and was derelict for two years until it reopened as the Phoenix Centre in 1991.