Seems like I’ve been asked this question a MILLION times over the last few days, in all contexts!
Right now, there’s so many aspects to this answer, and I want to record my thoughts on this now, so we can look back and see if this changes or if we achieve everything we wanted to do.
1. Building a home. We wanted a home with a bigger garden. Now we own a cinema. Seriously…
2. Saving some money. We didn’t want to spend half a million quid on a house to have to rip it up and start again. A half a million should be enough for a house that fits you perfectly. We want to achieve great value for money. I want to build a bespoke home for less than £350,000 all in, and it be worth £500,000 when we finish. Yeah, ok, we’ll see… but that’s what I want to do.
3. Saying, “We LOVE Thorne!”. We haven’t lived here for the last 12 years by accident. We know its image isn’t great even in the Doncaster area, but that’s not reality. What do you want from the place where you live? In no particular order; friendly people, no trouble, great transport links (check – two train stations, direct access to motorway, Leeds / Sheffield / York just over half an hour away, London in just over 2 hours via Donny), outstanding school, beautiful park, canal side walks, great pub (Windmill!), Sainsburys, Sports Centre with swimming pool, restaurants /cafes – Deja Vu (amazing!), Jaflong curry house, the country side is two minutes away, in fact, Thorne is like a countryside town. All the amenities you need (police station, health centre, banks etc) plus two minutes from the countryside. The ONLY thing I can think of that Thorne hasn’t got is an Apple Store! It’s even got its own Brewery!
Seriously, stack up all the other more ‘desirable’ places to what we have in Thorne. Nope, I want to live in Thorne. It’s a great working class town and I want my family to grow up here.
4. Taking a chance. You don’t gain anything unless you take a chance. We bought the cinema without planning permission, and actually without knowing if we could make it into a home. So, we got it cheap. Luckily, we knew a builder we could trust and found an old school friend that was a design architect. Luckily, we can make a beautiful town house with a big garden and we got planning.
Was it luck? How big was the risk? I suppose we’re yet to see. But what’s life if not a chance to do amazing, crazy things?
Personally, I didn’t think it was THAT big a risk. I’d spoken to planning at least twice before I bought it. I paid for a valuation and structural assessment. I’d spoken to local people about what they thought of it. If we got a decent set of plans, I thought there’d be a riot before we wouldn’t get planning!
In my head at least, the risk was small and the chance to gain was great. Yeah, in my head!
5. Adding something to our community. I’ll be honest here, our motivation to buy the cinema was totally selfish and focused on our family’s needs. But then you find out more about the history of the place, and the context it played in the community, and you start falling in love with a 1920s cinema, rather than seeing it as the old dive of a nightclub. And you realise that this is exactly what Thorne needs. There are so many beautiful old buildings in Thorne, and we’re turning one of them around from an eyesore, back to part of what it used to look like, but at least tidying part of Thorne up, that’s been stood for 12 or so years crumbling. And we’re doing it with our own money, with no help or grants or funding, and we get a great sense of pride from that.
6. Making a mark. I know this building will be beautiful. I knew nothing about architecture before this project, and now I know very little… but I know what I like, and I’m sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think our design is absolutely stunning. Yeah, I’m paying more for the design than I’d ever have imagined, but I know from my work that great design is worth every penny. It’s an investment I’d always make. I’m not a designer, but I know what great design is, and how it can improve your life.
When Percy Austin built the cinema as a beautiful, modern building in 1927, for his son, John to show the people of Thorne the future in glorious black and white flicks, he made his mark. I want to build a beautiful modern home for my kids to grow up in, to prove you can still do things, even in these times.
I know our design takes down a lot of the volume of the cinema, but it’s SO sympathetic to the original in many ways. How we’re constructing it out of the same materials, how we’re renovating the front, keeping the walls as our garden, and nodding to the past with our ‘projector windows’ at the the back, that will project colour INTO the building.
Old movies don’t get remade, they get re-imagined