Grand plans for historic Longridge Palace

Palace owner Lara Hewitt (right) with Cheryl Fell, one of the cinema managers and resident cinema dog Bruce.
Palace owner Lara Hewitt (right) with Cheryl Fell, one of the cinema managers and resident cinema dog Bruce.
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Longridge’s  entertainment gem, the Palace cinema, has ambitious plans to extend its offer for the year ahead.

Owner Lara Hewitt has unveiled her plans for it to become truly a Palace of variety, returning not just to its theatrical roots but extending its offer to appeal to different age groups and interests.

The Palace cinema in Longridge

The Palace cinema in Longridge

First off the blocks will be a new monthly comedy night.

The Palace’s first comedy night on Valentine’s Day (February 14) will be compered by Alex Boardman and feature Dan Nightingale from Preston, Chris Kehoe and Rahul Kohli. The nights are being organised by Mark Shepherd from Longridge's Vertigo Solutions .

Lara is also keen to use the exhibition space in the Market Place cinema not just to showcase paintings, but photography too.

A new Lancashire Lives portrait exhibition will open on the first day of spring, March 20 and be on show throughout the spring season until June 20.Entries are invited from both professionals and amateurs.

Lara said: “Lancashire is quite a diverse county. From east to west we’ve got such variety from the farming community and mill towns to the seaside .I hope people will start to think about how to frame a photo to tell a story or catch something of a person.”

Meanwhile the cinema will continue to show films with both day time and evening screenings and a choice of films each week.

There are also plans for more live theatre. Fresh from the success of ‘Longridge Does A Christmas Carol’ the town’s newly formed Palace Players can look forward to an exciting year ahead.

Lara, writer and director of the successful Christmas community production, predicts the Players will have an innovative future.

With her background in community arts and drama she now hopes to work with the Players to not just perform but also create new works.

She said: “My interest is rather than having another traditional amateur theatrical group we form a company that would create some new work. My heart is with community drama and making new work as well. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

It is early days, but she says scripts could be read out in performance or works could be created to document local stories.

She cited the historic example of the Bolton Octagon theatre, Hull Truck Theatre Company and the Contact Theatre in Manchester as inspirational for such work.

At Christmas Lara was able to write parts for the cast, rather than only allocating parts to a few people. This is, she said, another advantage of creating work: “You make the work for and with the people you’ve got.”

Lara hopes to access funding to support the work of both adult and children’s drama groups and predicts the cinema might also host visiting shows.

“I have a play I already know I want to do with the young person’s group. There might even be something before Easter.”

Tthe cinema continues to offer daily mainstream and art-house film showings and Lara said: “I’ve got some fantastic managers at the cinema now. They are managing the day to day business of running the cinema.”

• Entries for the Lancashire Lives exhibition must be sent by email to the Palace by February 28. Lara said if photos are selected for exhibition : “People have to be prepared to frame photos themselves and they have to own copyright of the work. It could be a portrait but really show someone in the context of their lives.”