Picture House Abbeydale Ellie Grace

Through The Lens: Abbeydale Picture House Revival

Exposed photoblogger Ellie Grace was on hand at the Picture House Revival over the weekend to snap the iconic Sheffield landmark as it returned to its former glory as a cinema.

Back in 1975 the Picture House closed its doors as a cinema for the last time, but 40 years later it is back! You may have seen or visited some of the events that have been held here recently, and we’ve got the owner Phil Robins to thank for that. He originally planned for it to be converted into a climbing centre, but luckily for us (sorry climbers) it is being developed into a multi-purpose community venue – I am so grateful as I LOVE this building!

IMG_4197 IMG_4196 IMG_4193 IMG_4192 IMG_4191 IMG_4189 IMG_4185 IMG_4184 IMG_4182 IMG_4180 IMG_4179 IMG_4177 IMG_4171 IMG_4166 IMG_4165July is the Picture House’s 40th anniversary and it didn’t go unnoticed. Hand Of is a Sheffield-based arts platform dedicated to supporting and enriching local communities by organising accessible and experimental arts events throughout the city. Taking over the Picture House for the weekend, they have transformed it back to its original guise, and it looked amazing. They thought of everything, which films to show, the re-installation the cinema chairs (they said they were comfy and they weren’t lying), the appropriately themed popcorn and the Temperance Bar which was serving some wonderfully retro Sarsaparilla.

It wasn’t all about the indoors though as the carpark was filled with some of Sheffield’s favourite street food vendors for people to feast on all day, and in the intervals of the films.

IMG_4162 IMG_4159 IMG_4152 IMG_4151 IMG_4148 IMG_4144 IMG_4142 IMG_4139 IMG_4136 IMG_4134 IMG_4131 IMG_4129 IMG_4124 IMG_4122 IMG_4121 IMG_4118 IMG_4117 IMG_4113 IMG_4110 IMG_4109 IMG_4108Inside you could purchase film posters from the films on show over the weekend or some Warp Films themed Henderson’s, of course. They also had a great little exhibition on upstairs in the ‘Archive’ room where you could fill up on the history of the Picture House and see a vintage film projector up front. Also upstairs was the Temperance Bar which was genuinely like stepping back in time with their vintage red carpet, big retro arm chairs; all dimly lit by old lamps and candles.

Luckily for us they had opened the doors to the balcony so you could sneak up and I managed to catch a glimpse of the old projectors they were using for the film we were about to watch, and watched the very technological way of finding the beginning of the film.

IMG_4105 IMG_4104 IMG_4103 IMG_4100 IMG_4095 IMG_4091 IMG_4090 IMG_4087 IMG_4085I hadn’t really planned which film I was going to watch, I thought I would just pop down briefly and take some pictures but I am SO glad I turned up just in time to watch their first film on Sunday. The Call of the Road is a film set in 1820 and found itself onto the screen today, not by accident or because it’s a favourite of the organisers, but because it was the first film ever shown in the Abbeydale Picture House back in December 1920. It’s a silent movie, which is why I thought I was going to be bored – I get distracted easily and being in silence just wasn’t very appealing – but when Jonathan Best was introduced on stage it was a complete game changer.

IMG_4083 Jonathan is a pianist and musical director who has worked on various musicals in the West End and worked with orchestras around the UK. At the moment he is actually producing the first Classical Sheffield Music Festival which is taking place this October, so keep your eyes peeled for that. He was there today to play piano alongside the film. Most of the time I genuinely forgot the music was being played live, and that it wasn’t originally part of the film. The music flowed absolutely timelessly with each scene, each movement from the actors accounted for perfectly with the movement of his fingers on the piano keys.

IMG_4135IMG_4161IMG_4078Whilst I was outside shovelling a flatbread in my face I managed to have a quick conversation about his performance and found out that he had only watched the film 3 or 4 times and hadn’t actually played the piano for the film before. The whole of his performance today was complete improvisation. My respect for his performance just reached a whole new level of phenomenal. The photos just don’t do this moment any justice what so ever.


With Thanks to:

Abbeydale Picture House – Facebook page

Hand Of – www.handof.co.uk

Warp Films – www.warpfilms.com

The Antiques Quarter – www.sheffieldantiquesquarter.co.uk

The Projected Picture Trust – www.ppttrust.org

The ever amazing street food vendors.

Oh and whoever this amazing person that left this incredible sign in the toilet was.


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  1. Peter

    It was indeed a marvelous weekend – and the highlight was ‘The Call of The Road’, with Jonathan’s virtuoso 2-hour performance. I chatted to the grandson of the architect who designed the Abbeydale – he sat in the front row and admitted to floods of tears as he realised that his grandparents would have been sitting in a similar spot on opening night in 1920, watching the same film, also with live music.

    Like you, I worried that I would lose attention – but the tie-in between the silent movie and the music was mesmeric. Bravo, Jonathan, and the ovation was well deserved.

    And huge plaudits to the Hand Of team for so bravely putting on a great event – the preparation must have been horrendous!


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