Predating all of the Art-Deco style super cinemas of the 1920’s – 1930’s, the Palace is one of the earliest existing examples of a purpose-built cinema in the country. Built on the original 'fair field', where the travelling theatre would make an annual visit, as well as the fair, a weekend market, and the cricket field, the site has been the centre of popular entertainment in the village of Ibstock for over one hundred years. In 1912, the Palace, designed by local architects Goddard & Wain of Coalville, was built by Baxter’s Builders; it opened its doors for the first time on Boxing Day that year. Unable to compete with the rise of televisions and large out of town cinemas, the last film to roll off the reel was Walt Disney’s “Jungle Book” in 1970. Still a provider of popular community entertainment, the Palace was used as a Bingo Hall, before finally closing for business in 1986. Bought by the Parish Council on 3 October 1995 the building was leased to the Palace Arts Centre Ltd in 2000.
During the years that the Management Committee worked on a strategy to secure the necessary funds to re-open The Palace doors through a complex mixture of funding bids, it was encouraging to receive reports such as the one from T.R. Projects (A local heritage group), who had these comments to make about The Palace;
“This building is a rare survival of a truly significant type of building of great social importance. It is in sound major structural state and can be clearly used again. There is a high rate of survival traces of the earlier uses of the building which will enable detailed historic study to be undertaken.
The austere exterior of the building does not automatically fit into the natural perception of entertainment architecture. The significance of its function was, however, the escapism of film.
This building is too early to have the drama of the Art-Deco super cinemas. It is a truly economical, local expression of a facility for the whole community.”
In 1994/5, the Civic Trust Regeneration Unit undertook a Study of Ibstock, worked with the community to identify issues that they faced and projects that could be developed to help improve the economic prospects of the village. The following key areas of work (amongst others) were identified in the study:
The Ibstock Market Towns Healthcheck undertaken in 2003 reinforced these findings. This identified the following key actions:
The redevelopment of the Palace has been designed to address these issues. It has brought the Palace back into Community use. It has worked in partnership with Punch Taverns and Ibstock Brick plc to improve the car park area at the rear, creating an additional open space at the heart of the village which is used for occasional markets, festivals and other activities. This being the exact site that originally hosted similar events in the community all those years ago! Markets are now held at The Palace every month.
Since re-opening in September 2006 the venue has hosted a rock concert, theatrical productions, seminars, business promotions, public and private parties, classical concerts, brass band concerts, organ concerts, the Ibstock Christmas festival and much more. It is also the home to a regular yoga group, Karate Class, toddlers group, senior citizens group, 2 exercise and fitness groups, monthly Ceilidhs, film nights, auctions and after a gap of 15 years regular, weekly bingo sessions!
The current project has undertaken the minimum amount of work necessary to bring the Palace back into use as a community facility. The second phase will hopefully allow some of the heritage of the building to be better understood. As the building has a historical and cultural value, a specialist Architect, DEK Architects, has been employed to ensure that the significant elements of the building are not lost in the refurbishment. Planning permission has been passed for Phase 2 and funding bids are currently being put into place.
The project attracted the attention of The Projected Picture Trust when it began to look as if all the planning and hard work of the volunteers who act as the Management Committee might actually become a reality. The Projected Picture Trust, based at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, maintains vintage projection equipment. They have supplied the Palace with all the equipment for the projection room, including a pair of fully restored and operational, vintage projectors. The trust intends to train 4 or 5 volunteer projectionists to allow The Palace to, once again, have regular projected film shows. One lady, who is a member of the Palace management committee and the daughter of a former projectionist at the Palace, is to be one of the first trainees to learn the art of film projection. The films will include a programme of both modern and vintage films. The Palace already has a very popular monthly DVD film night which currently attracts approx. 100 film goers. Patrons are treated to a film show experience for as little as £3.00 for concessionary ticket. This includes a licensed bar, the opportunity to sit in the fully refurbished balcony area with ice cream and pop-corn served by an usherette!
The cost of the project has been £220,000 of capital spend to achieve Phase 1. The Palace Community Centre received funding from Leicester Shire Economic Partnership; Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust; North West Leicestershire District Council's Housing Renewal Area Funding; Leicestershire County Council; Ibstock Parish Council and David Wilson. The Palace Community Centre is continuing with its own fund raising efforts and is applying for additional funding to help with the costs of equipment and the like.
Plans for phase 2 of the restoration have been passed. If funding is secured for phase 2, we plan to include a heritage area focusing on Ibstock and the history of cinema.
Phase 2 will also incorporate the building of a community radio station. Ibstock and the surrounding area, as part of North West Leicestershire, would benefit from having a radio station which would provide a unique opportunity to community groups. Also, our area would benefit from the enormous social gain and opportunities that would be provided, primarily to the young, but potentially to all.
The studio would provide people from within the area of North West Leicestershire with a wonderful opportunity to develop new skills, by providing local news and information. People wishing to become involved in local radio would receive invaluable help, advice and training from experienced broadcasters and the experience that people would gain would prove a real asset to them should they wish to pursue a career in media.