The locals’ passion for cinema and a strong community spirit saved Prestatyn’s La Scala

Manager, Chris Bond, and the President of the Friends of the Scala Cinema, in front of the History W

Manager, Chris Bond, and the President of the Friends of the Scala Cinema, in front of the History Wall - Credit: Archant

The rebirth of Prestatyn’s La Scala Cinema has been crucial to the community.

History wall at the Scala Cinema

History wall at the Scala Cinema - Credit: Archant

The 1913 original was forced to close 13 years ago due to neglect. But Friends of the Scala, first led by resident Sandra Pitt, worked tirelessly to ensure residents and visitors could enjoy a modern replacement cinema and theatre.

Mrs Pitt said: ‘The Scala was the hub of Prestatyn, I feared that without it we would become a ghost town. I felt the campaign was symbolic of Prestatyn’s regeneration and the public agreed and backed me all the way. This was an exercise in people power.’

Three years ago artist Paul Young was approached by Rhiannon Wyn Hughes MBE to create a concept for a mural within the Scala. The project was co-founded by the Arts Council of Wales and Prestatyn Youth Arts Festival.

Prestatyn’s cinema began at the town hall. The driving force was James Robert Saronie from Birkenhead. He owned cinemas across the Wirral and North Wales and brought moving pictures to audiences from the early 1900s.

Paul Young’s inspiration for the mural was a photo of people queuing outside the Scala in 1933, waiting to see King Kong. The concept for the mural then came together. It would be a cinema queue over 100 people long, beginning in 1910, and then moving forward in time, one person for every year. The passage of time within the queue would be shown by the change in fashion and the building itself behind, going through changes up to the modern day. This process took over 18 months, and involved help from many sources including local historians Harry Thomas, Fred Hobbs and others.

Many interesting people were discovered to have links with Prestatyn such as Arthur Rowland Jones, the 1st officer aboard Titanic’s sister ship, the ill-fated luxury ocean liner The Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Southern Ireland in 1915. The late Mitch Mitchell, drummer in the Jimi Hendrix Experience went to school in Prestatyn. These links and many more were woven into the cinema queue, creating a piece of art and an historical narrative.

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The practical side of finding, costuming and photographing 100 people was a mammoth task, involving Sue Rees, Joan Philips and Rhiannon Hughes. The artwork itself took two months to complete.