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Lincoln's Ritz cinema revival project still on track, say dedicated backers

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

  • Pete Genders, the chief executive of volunteer organisation Off The Bench

  • The Ritz pub in Lincoln's High Street

  • The auditorium which was Screen One.

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The reopening of The Ritz in Lincoln has been delayed – but the group bringing the cinema back to life hope to open its doors within the next six months.

This time last year, it was announced that The Ritz, in High Street, would reopen as a fully-functioning cinema for the first time in 17 years.

Lincoln-based voluntary organisation Off The Bench took on the lease to breathe new life into the much-loved city landmark and hoped to have it up and running before the end of 2012.

But work stalled after asbestos was discovered throughout the historic building, taking seven months to clear out and eating up most of the project's budget.

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Pete Genders, chief executive of Off The Bench and head of The Ritz regeneration project, has now told the Echo that he is determined to get the work back on track to open the cinema up to the community.

He said: "We've had a hell of a year and wanted to be open by now, but finding the asbestos hit us quite hard.

"It took us around seven months but we've made the building safe now, which means people can go inside and start taking the project forward.

"It's a much bigger project than we first thought and we won't be able to get it done without people coming forward and volunteering their time.

"We want to get the actual building open to use as a community space within the next few months.

"Work on bringing it into use as a cinema will come after that. It could take us some time to raise money for the audio and film equipment.

"It would be fantastic if The Ritz was a fully-functioning cinema by the end of the year but we don't want to be held to a date at this time.

"Rome wasn't built in a day and who knows what else could happen."

With the asbestos problem depleting most of the funds for The Ritz project, Off The Bench will be hosting monthly fundraising events to help get back on track.

The first is an art exhibition based on classic and iconic films, opening on Friday, January 18, from 7pm until 9pm.

Made up of 50 pieces of original work from Lincoln-based designers Leo Cripps and James Smart, posters and cards based on the pieces will be available to purchase with all proceeds going to The Ritz project.

Of the exhibition, Mr Cripps said: "As a film fanatic and local designer, it's a great opportunity to exhibit new work and raise awareness of this fantastic cause."

During the exhibition, which runs daily until January 25, from 10am until 4pm, there will also be a chance to tour the cinema and learn about the future plans.

Then, in April, Off The Bench will be hosting an evening benefit concert with local acts like Elliott Morris and The Lounge Crusade already confirmed.

Dubbed Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – a nod to iconic rock bands like The Rolling Stones who have featured in the venue's 66-year history – it is hoped the benefit will become an annual music event for Lincoln.

People can also sponsor one of 10,000 bricks at The Ritz for the price of £1, sponsor one of 212 cinema seats for £100 or even become a founding patron for a cool £1,000.

For more information about the project, visit www.indiegogo.com/theritz.

Anyone able to volunteer their time, services or fundraising ideas to The Ritz project is asked to contact Mr Genders by calling 01522 529608 or e-mailing petegenders@otblincs.org.uk .

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