Cinema project director: ‘We are very sorry’

More than 160 local people and companies lost money on the Harborough cinema screen project after it went bust, documents obtained by the Mail have revealed.

According to the documents lodged at Companies House, the losers include individuals who put in between £50 and £100, a day nursery that contributed almost £300 and a cinema seat refurbishment company which is owed £3,000.

The remains of the Harborough cinema unit

The remains of the Harborough cinema unit

But the biggest losers are Harborough Youth And Community Trust (HYACT), who are the landlords of the cinema site.

They are owed more than £12,000 by the cinema project, which they are unlikely to ever get back.

Trust secretary, the Rev Nicholas Cook, said: “We’ve lost a lot of money on this scheme.

“Yes, I feel cross, particularly because this could have been a successful project.”

Sandra Seaward, who is a former Harborough Screen Community Interest Company director, told the Mail: “I’d just like to say to everyone who contributed that we’re very sorry it didn’t happen.

“We tried very hard to achieve a cinema for Market Harborough.

“I still believe there’s room for a cinema in the town. I’m just sad we weren’t able to achieve it.”

The cinema screen project started on a wave of public enthusiasm in 2007, backed eventually by a 10,000-signature petition.

The dream ended last month with the demolition of the mobile building intended to house the cinema on Symington’s Recreation Ground, off St Mary’s Road, and the liquidation of the Harborough Screen Community Interest Company which was supposed to run it.

The liquidators, BRI Business Recovery and Insolvency, based in Northampton, wound up the company with creditors owed a total of £34,634.

There is no suggestion of any misuse of money.

Money contributed locally was spent on a digital projector, moving the large cinema unit down from Scotland, renovating the unit and processing the planning application.

The Mail has been told the project’s main problem lay with the cinema screen unit itself.

Weaknesses within the roof meant that when it finally arrived in Harborough, after storage in Raunds for more than two years, it was not fit for purpose.

The Rev Cook explained: “The directors were only trying to do what the community asked them to do, but the trailer at the centre of the scheme, which looked likely to provide a cheap solution to the cinema problem, turned out to be not up to the job.”

He added: “We’ve got a fantastic youth centre now on the site now [the Cube]but we’re shelling out the money intended for youth work in tidying up a massive mess on our doorstep.

“With hindsight, there were good intentions, but it was a bad decision to get involved with the cinema project.

“As is said, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Local people and businesses who lost money on the scheme were sad rather than angry.

Resident Alison Avil, of Coventry Road, Harborough, donated £80. She said: “Yes, we’ve lost the money, but it’s just one of those things isn’t it?”

Fireplace and stove specialists Harborough Stone, based off Adam and Eve Street, put £300 into the project.

Company secretary Kim Cail said: “I’ve lived in Harborough all my life, and I thought it was something that the town needed. Obviously I’m extremely disappointed that it’s not happened.”

Alastair Campbell, the managing director of The Ideal Marketing Company of Union Wharf, Harborough, lost company and private money.

He said: “I was one of the people who helped set the project up, although I dropped out a couple of years ago.

“I don’t quite understand what went wrong.

“There’s been a real lack of communication.”

Bridget Crane, owner of Little Angels Day Nursery in Angel Row, Harborough, put nearly £300 into the project because she “wanted to support a cinema that was very needed in the town”.

“I know a lot of people worked very hard to try and make it happen,” she said

Resident Linda Bodsworth, of Picks Close, Harborough, said: “I just wanted to help the community.

“I regret putting the money in now, and feel very sad.”

Graham Wilde of Renovation Seat Service in Warrington is owed £3,000 on work his company did re-covering the cinema seats in crushed velvet.

“It’s money we’ll never see again,” he told the Mail.

“But I feel sorry for the people in Harborough who have lost money and won’t get a cinema. The idea was right – but it just didn’t work out.”

In total 26 companies, 12 clubs or community groups and 130 individuals donated cash.