It’s not many campaigns that start with a concession that a building is beyond salvage – but even those campaigning to preserve the facade of the Futurists Cinema on Lime Street admit that the building can never be restored to its former glory.

The cinema was Liverpool’s first purpose-built picture house and opened exactly 100 years ago. However it’s been derelict for 30 years and the interior is beyond saving – it’s open to the elements and the interior now poses a danger to anyone venturing inside. Like the Forum Cinema across the road, the decaying facade of the Futurist has contributed to making Lime Street one of the most run-down areas of the city.

However, that facade is the only bit of the cinema that can be saved according to Lesley Mullally, who is leading the campaign to save the grand entrance to the building. As a result she’s launched a petition to encourage the council, which is drafting a five-year plan for the area, to ensure the facade remains as part of any redevelopment.

We caught up with Lesley to learn more about the history of the cinema and its likely future.

SevenStreets: Tell us about the Futurist Cinema and why you think it needs to be saved.

Lesley Mullally: There is really nothing left to save of the auditorium; however the facade is still remaining and is a sad, but still beautiful, reminder of what once was. I am campaigning to save the front facade of the futurist hoping it can be integrated into future redevelopment plans for Lime Street – similar to the Printworks building in Manchester and also the Met Quarter in Liverpool.

If you look at the building now there are trees growing out of it, the windows are not secured and it seems to now be a home for pigeons. The Futurist building is not listed and it is not in a conservation area so it really is down to us, the people, to raise awareness and make sure it is saved.

The building is owned by a company called Futurist Developments Ltd – they own a lot of the area around Lime Street, and the area behind (Futurist Developments are currently in voluntary liquidation).

SS: What do you think should happen to the building?

LM: I don’t wish to try again to get The Futurist listed, as it would only hamper future plans for Lime Street. Also the Forum Cinema opposite The Futurist is listed inside and out, so if there was ever plans for a cinema on Lime Street it would make sense to use that one.

In the meantime, however, I am concerned about the state of the facade and want interim measures put in place to secure it until redevelopment starts. We’ve had a meeting with Mark Kitts and Malcolm Kennedy at the council to raise the issue.

SS: What’s inspired you to take on this role as the Futurist’s defender?

LM: My inspiration came from a love of the building, it sounds silly but every time I passed Lime Street I gazed at the splendour of the it; somehow its deterioration made it look magical.

How can this building disappear? Well simply it can’t. I sat at home one night and decided that I would find out if other people felt the same as me, and so my campaign was born, simply using the hashtag #savethefuturist on Twitter. The response has been amazing and confirmed my thoughts; the people of Liverpool feel the same!

This is why I have started my petition, so I have solid evidence of support from everyone who wants this, at the end of the day everything comes down to facts and figures. This has been a real labour of love for me as well as a massive learning process, I have never done anything like this before. I believe the building speaks for itself, all I need to do is be its voice.

SS: Why, in your opinion, have we lost so many old cinemas?

LM: Simple – technological advances, television, internet and the like. People went to the cinema to see the news! The world has evolved and sadly the great picture houses of the past are disappearing.

• Find out more Save The Futurist and sign the petition to save the building’s facade

• Read more about The Futurist at Streets of Liverpool

9 Responses to “Future Imperfect: The Battle To Save The Futurist”

  1. I disagree with this whole thing about saving useless buildings. It’s why half of Liverpool looks the way it does now with so many listed buildings. Lesley even says that there’s nothing worth saving, except for the facade. I know that I’d much rather them knock anything down that’s not serving the city *now* rather than in the past and build something better there than hold onto nostalgia. Surely a city for the future is better than one stuck in the past.

  2. The facade should be saved and integrated into any new development.

    When we look at the eyesores and issues around the city centre what stands out to me are not the abandoned old buildings, but the mistakes made by councils of the 60s, 70s and 80s, many of which I believe have contributed to the decay of the grand old buildings they surround:

    – The tiny shopping centres (which are all ugly to me) useless for any large store and so condemned to small low-end retail, also constrain development in that end of the city centre, including affecting the flow of people to Lime Street.

    – The various nasty boxy office buildings that blight Dale, Victoria, Water Streets et al. They look like they’d be more at home in a run down version of Slough, and do nothing to make anyone want to be on these streets, again affecting pedestrian flows.

    – The Dale Street flyover FINALLY earmarked for demolition, which acts as a natural deterrent to people heading up to London Road, which is now a similar scene of decline.

    – The walled in mini-housing estates at either end of the city centre, which put a firm stamp on any actual city centre development in that area while at the same time creating foreboding places to be at night, far from any amenities that communities actually need.

    Simple fact is that, while the UK can make some good and even great modern buildings, no one makes incredible buildings like those being knocked down anymore, so if we lose them then we lose that forever. Anything that preserves at least some aspect of them is good in my book.

    Also, too much of modern design is “idealogical” instead of concentrating on good looking classics; architect dreamed weird shaped skyscrapers instead of a focus on making a sensible rectangular look elegant through attention to detail and finishing, for example. The horrific additions to cities over the 60s-early 90s and the detrimental effects they are having today should be enough to tell councils to back off with the ideas and enforce some good taste (which is a talent and skill, rather than being subjective, actually), and demanding that this piece of classic, good looking architecture be included in any new development is as good a start as any.

  3. The façade MUST stay. Liverpool must retain its Victorian streets and buildings and the ambience & vibrancy they create. No more nonsense like demolishing Cases Street – what were they thinking off when the city approved that!!!! Also, the tram scheme should finally be killed off – it is still an active project. Trains in these streets , that is what trams are, will also assist in killing vibrancy. The city has about 4 miles of disused rail tunnel under the city centre awaiting to be brought onto Merseyrail and stations cut into the tunnels – that is where our future transport lays.

    Developers care nothing of history or heritage – only money. There are lots of places in the city super modern buildings can be built; destroying the Victorian flavour is not how you do it. Liverpool continually shoots itself in the foot.

  4. Datscouse1

    If you need any reason why to save this facade, spend a few days in Dublin. I’m from Liverpool originally, but Dublin is a mixture of ultra modern, with Edwardian classics, and it goes together very well.

    Save it, keep it, and I’ll trade st Johns market, or Clayton square for it.

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