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Deveron Projects

The Town Is The Venue
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Elsebeth Jørgensen

Cinemagic Tour II: Scenes from an Imaginary Place


Progress always comes late.
Alfredo in the film Cinema Paradiso
after being informed about the arrival of the
new non-combustible film.
Excavating the history of Huntly’s former picture house

Elsebeth Jørgensen comes from Copenhagen and came to Huntly in 2006 to investigate the social history of its former picture house.

Like so many of its European counterparts the former picture house in Huntly closed in the mid-1960s. The building however survived, its doors boarded up and the exterior painted battleship grey. For many years there were requests made to Deveron Projects to do something about this 'eyesore', which evoked so many memories in the community of happy days now passed. Elsebeth was chosen to tackle this issue because of her existing long-term project, for which she travelled around Europe, photographing empty closed down, and converted cinemas. For the project she collected a wealth of local archive materials: photographs, interviews and documentation.


As part of this project, Elsebeth became the first person in twenty years to gain access into the interior of the crumbling former picture house. After careful negotiations with Aberdeenshire Council, she was allowed in to photograph the interior at her own risk. While there she discovered a number of fascinating items, which had been left in the old building designated for demolition. Elsebeth also ‘excavated’ a number of images from this hermetically sealed environment - to let people see the inner secrets of the building.

Through her research, Elsebeth involved people who once worked in the picture house and those who thought Huntly would be a better place if it still had one. She arranged film evenings with lectures and film screenings to initiate discussions about the meaning of cinema in relation to Huntly’s cultural life and memory. The Huntly section of the Cinemagic Tour was concluded with an installation of picture house artefacts and memorabilia (now archived with the local heritage service), and the 'Unveiling of Images' reception at the local Stewart’s Hall – where the very first local Laterna Magica took place. Through this project, people had a chance to witness what had become of the once vibrant community asset, which sparked fond memories particularly amongst older generations. Many were delighted to see themselves on film when the former projectionist Gordon McTavish screened a special showing of the 1953 Huntly Gala. Gordon played an important part in Elsebeth’s research with the stories from his years at the cinema. The final event turned the old picture house on Gordon Street inside out. Images from inside the building were projected onto the boarded up frontage, so that passers-by finally saw what lay behind the walls, as if the doors had been opened one last time.


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