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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Restored organ installed at Bowness cinema

A CLASSIC cinema organ is to provide the soundtrack for silent movies at a South Lakes picture house, following the completion of a fundraising drive to lovingly restore it.

The vintage 1927 Wurlitzer has been installed in the Royalty cinema, Bowness.

And it was to be played over the weekend before previews of the new Keira Knightley film Anna Karenina.

The rare pipe organ, which originates from the Rex Theatre in Stratford, London, had been deteriorating in storage for around 35 years.

That was until five years ago when Dalton’s Mark Latimer and a group of fellow enthusiasts agreed to take the instrument from a collector in Scotland, where it lay in bits and pieces.

They have raised around £25,000 through their Furness Theatre Organ Project to restore the Wurlitzer and painstakingly install it in the Royalty Cinema.

Mr Latimer, chairman of the restoration projects, said: “When we brought all the bits back, I think there were five Luton vans full of stuff.

“We looked at it all and thought we would never make anything of it.

“But we’ve managed to put it together and it sounds absolutely fantastic – we never imagined it would sound as good as it does.

“And it’s in a cinema. They were designed for cinemas in the days before the talkies when there were silent films, with the likes of Chaplin, and the organ would be played as an accompaniment.”

Cinema owner Charles Morris said: “It’s very appropriate, as the organ itself dates from 1927, as does the cinema.

“It’s the only Wurlitzer organ now in a British cinema and I’m very proud for it to be here.

“I have six cinemas and the Royalty is the only one with a proper pipe organ and it will add considerably to the movie-going experience.”

A concert to celebrate the organ’s restoration will be held at the cinema on October 6 at 2pm.

Veteran organists David Ivory and David Shepherd, who played the Wurlitzer when it was housed in London in the 1970s, will perform, along with organ and keyboard entertainer Chris Powell.

Mr Ivory will then play the musical accompaniment to the 1923 romantic comedy silent film Safety Last! at 7.30pm.

Tickets are on sale from the Royal box office.

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