Cutting a well-angled dash beside Cromarty Firth, Cromarty’s new cinema is evidence of community-led action & good-looking contemporary architecture. Susanna Beaumont talks to its architect, Lynne Sproull.
Cromarty lies roughly 25 miles north of Inverness. It inhabits a peninsula that juts out into Cromarty Firth which in turn stretches onwards & eastwards into the North Sea. It’s a handsome town – all sturdy stone house, it is known for its fine Georgian merchant houses – with a population of just over 700. And to the town’s north lies a boatyard & a ferry slipway. It is here where you will find the most recent addition to Cromarty’s architectural landscape: Cromarty Community Cinema. Silhouetted brilliantly by the firth beyond, it’s a concise structure, all dark metal cladding, gun-metal grays, strong lines & confident angles. Across the building’s length in custard-yellow stands the word, ‘cinema’.
Cromarty Community Cinema opened early last year, weeks before cinema-going became strictly off-limits. Now reopened, it is currently screening action-packed No Time to Die alongside Dune & films from the recent Venice Film Festival.
Lynne Sproull is the architect behind this ingenious building that is fully accessible & has a seating capacity of 35. Based in Cromarty, Lynne says that prior to the new cinema, ‘films were shown in various halls, The Stables & The Brewery where everyone dragged around hard chairs & the equipment. The floors were flat so sightlines were non-existent and the sound quality was not great’.
Silhouetted brilliantly by the firth beyond, it’s a concise structure, all dark metal cladding, gun-metal grays, strong lines & confident angles. Across the building’s length in custard-yellow stands the word, ‘cinema’.
And of course there was a determined group of locals who powered the initiative to construct a purpose-built cinema. It was in 2004 that a gathering of film enthusiasts formed the Cromarty and Resolis Film Society. By 2007 they were hatching a plan to launch a film festival. And then, after 10 years of festivals came the ‘mad dream of a community cinema’ took form, then flight. After a feasibility study was completed in 2018 that proved that the dream was possible to realise, a funding campaign was launched to secure financial support from both public & private bodies.
Lynne’s brief was to the point – to design a cinema that was accessible & easy to maintain . . all of course on a shoestring budget. The area around the slipway was identified as a possible site & after discussions with a local landowner, a post-industrial brownfield pocket of land became available. And what a site! It lies within Cromarty Conservation Area, adjacent to a working A-listed harbour & ferry slipway. And beyond, Scotland’s largest offshore installation fabrication yard provides an ever-changing, eye-catching backdrop As Lynne says, ‘the design emerged from consideration of the constraints of the project: a very limited budget of £183,000, tight construction timescales due to funding cycles, a public building to be run by volunteers, and of course an appropriate response to the context of the site’. The waterfront with its array of boathouses along with the rigs out in the firth beyond, arguably gave Lynne a brilliant context – a landscape of workaday, ‘form follows function’ structures – to respond to.
‘The marine environment means that materials have to be climatically robust, and being run by volunteers, there needed to be minimal maintenance. Internally, the focus was in creating as luxurious a cinema experience as budget allowed.‘ Lynne Sproull
Drawing inspiration from shipping containers, Lynne very much let the buildings’ function shape its formation – a raked floor to allow good sightlines & a large screen. As Lynne notes: ‘The marine environment means that materials have to be climatically robust, and being run by volunteers, there needed to be minimal maintenance. Internally, the focus was in creating as luxurious a cinema experience as budget allowed. A simple, contrasting interior palette was favoured, with emphasis placed on the comfort and experience of film goers.’ And what lushness, the interior is lined with opulent armchair seats in a rich burgundy velour with integrated space for people using wheelchairs.
And with its team of volunteers & a keen community of film-goers, Cromarty Community Cinema is both thriving & inspirational.
Cromarty Community Cinema Links, Cromarty IV11 8YL
Lynne Sproull: architecture – design – conservation can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Ruth Clark, photographer, Cromarty resident & volunteer projectionist at Cromarty Community Cinema for use of her photographs.