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.
• Read more about The Futurist at Streets of Liverpool