Designed by local Kilkeel native, Ben Cowser, The Vogue Cinema was built in 1938 and is located in the heart of this fishing town on the edge of the Mourne Mountains. It is the only listed cinema building in Northern Ireland, and performed its original function until its closure in 2007.
During WWII, the cinema was used as a venue to entertain British and American troops, as well as airmen stationed in the district. It hosted a weekly cinema, variety concerts, pantomime, bingo, meetings, and exhibitions, and is held in great affection by the townspeople. The Grade B2-listed building, which boasts an original interior, is owned by Newry and Mourne District Council, has been vacant for 13 years, and is in a state of serious disrepair.
Images: The exterior and interior of The Vogue Cinema in Kilkeel. Photos courtesy of Kilkeel Charitable Trust.
In 2020, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) awarded Kilkeel Charitable Trust a Project Viability Grant. This enabled the Trust to conduct an extensive community consultation exercise, attracting over 900 responses; engage with conservation-accredited architects to carry out feasibility work; and work with a business planner to help to test and refine its concept in light of feedback and stronger commitment from the Council.
Following on from this valuable work, the Trust now plans to progress its proposals to animate the cinema with a variety of uses, including: a community cinema; public events space; a social enterprise hub; higher education outreach, with a multi-media/ digital hub and recording studio; meeting and co-working spaces; and cross-community/non-denominational arts and culture activities.
The AHF is delighted to have recently awarded a Project Development Grant to support the Trust to appoint a project manager to help progress the project to the next stage, which includes acquiring the building through a community asset transfer.