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      Barra & Vatersay News

Audiences for the mobile cinema Screen Machine are celebrating in North Uist today (Thursday 14 March) after hearing that the Screen Machine has received a funding extension to keep bringing film to remote and island communities.

In their announcement today, cinema operators Regional Screen Scotland (RSS) thanked everyone who has sent letters and emails on their behalf, saying: “Your hard work is starting to pay off!”

That’s because £350,000 in funding has been released by Screen Scotland, allowing RSS to extend the lease of the temporary mobile cinema Cinémobile, which is in Carinish today (Thursday March 14) and heading for Liniclate and Tarbert over the weekend.

The lease extension means the mobile cinema will continue to serve the Highlands and Islands until April 2026, allowing RSS further time to raise the £1.4 million needed for a new, tailor-made Screen Machine to take the service into the 2030s.

Simon Drysdale, interim chief executive officer of RSS, said: “We are immensely grateful to Screen Scotland for demonstrating their continued support for the much-loved Screen Machine, by funding the fee to extend the lease of the Cinémobile for a further two years beyond April 2024.

“This means our customers can be confident that they will continue to have access to the big screen until at least April 2026.

“We have already made great progress in lobbying for support to commission the build of a brand new Screen Machine, which we intend to bring into use no later than April 2026.

“This progress is largely down to efforts that our customers made in writing to their MSPs and other elected representatives, to tell them how much they love and value the Screen Machine.

“We are very grateful for all of the letters, emails, conversations and phone calls that have been sent or made on our behalf.

“We would urge our customers to continue to contact their local councillors, MSPs and MPs to impress upon them that the long-term future of the Screen Machine will only be secured when the new mobile cinema is commissioned.

“Fund raising for the new, permanent Screen Machine is our mission over the coming months.”

Sambrooke Scott of Screen Scotland said: “This interim solution ensures continuity while RSS strives to secure a permanent replacement for the beloved Screen Machine, and Screen Scotland are fully behind those efforts.

“Our funding not only extends the Cinémobile lease but also bolsters the resilience of RSS and helps the efforts to secure a new facility from April 2026 onwards.

“Screen Scotland's commitment to the Screen Machine service and the communities it serves remains unwavering. But I want to underline that to be sustainable in the longer term the Screen Machine should be supported by the local authority areas that it serves, as well as by Scotland’s national screen body.

“We're proud to support the continued efforts of Regional Screen Scotland in maintaining access to the full cinema experience through the lease of the Cinémobile.”

Among champions of the Screen Machine are pupils at Castlebay School, who banded together to enlist celebrity support from Dame Judi Dench, briefing her on the threat to their film-going experiences.

Dame Judi responded energetically with a letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf in which she underlined the significance of cinema-going for the development of young people’s interest in film.

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “I wish to congratulate children and island communities for their efforts in securing a future for the Screen Machine. They left no stone unturned or no letter unwritten, letters to their MP in Gaelic.  As a result, they and other rural people can continue with the cinematic experience.

“The arrival of the Screen Machine in rural communities in the late 90s was a huge step forward for our communities to access blockbuster films and independent and family films. A great experience for young and old alike.

“As a user of the Screen Machine when it visits Barra, I know the value of this service to rural communities who do not have access to permanent cinemas.

“I will continue to press for funding for the Screen Machine to be secured in the long term and I am sure that the community will continue with their efforts on this.

“Regional Screen Scotland now have further time to raise £1.4 million to commission the build of a tailor-made Screen Machine to take the service into the 2030s.”

Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has also welcomed the news. “It’s fantastic to hear Screen Machine, a project which has brought the big screen experience to so many of my constituents for 26 years, is set to continue until at least 2026, in large part due to pressure from MSPs and their constituents.

“I am grateful to my constituents for getting in touch about the future of this project. I think it demonstrates just important having a means to access films and the arts means to island communities.

“Of course, we should always be looking at new ways to showcase the latest releases to communities without a cinema, but there can be little doubt the Screen Machine has been and continues to be a much-valued institution for many of my constituents.”

The picture shows the Cinémobile in Daliburgh earlier this week, before the funding extension was announced (Robert Sinclair).

(The MP's AND MSP's comments have been added since this article was first posted)