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Long Lost Treasure: Let There Be Light

Updated: 4 days ago

This month your resident heritage curator recalls a startling discovery that was right over our heads for decades, before shining once again in the present day!


When Friends of the Broadway Prestwick first gained access to the building back in 2021, the foyer remained a lot more recognisable as its last iteration as the amusement arcade, rather than the cinema before. Dusty grey carpet still covered the Art Deco linoleum, the grand staircase was still shielded by a wooden frame, and most significantly the false ceiling tiles of the 1980s still towered above our heads. Initially, there was little thought given to what might lie above. Many ceiling tiles had already been removed from the rear of the foyer to reveal the original, yet understated, lighter ceiling design behind. Then one day in 2022, when standing on a chair to examine some steel columns, what lay hidden above the false tiles at the front of the foyer became visible for the first time.


Treasure.


Original Art Deco light fittings, covered up with the arrival of the amusements and forgotten for 40 years. Upon initial viewing, the light fittings appeared to be completely intact, barrel-shaped with round golden bases, and golden glass within a chrome frame. Another remarkable discovery along our journey.


Fast forward to the signing of the official licence agreement in early 2023, and our initial restoration plans were put into motion. All to the aim of gradually peeling away the leisure centre layers to reveal the hidden Broadway Cinema of old behind. In the foyer, the false ceiling was duly removed, and the lights had room to breathe once again. Not only that, but a glorious original ceiling design was revealed with it! Despite still wearing half a century-old tobacco stains… So, the reality might be slightly tinged with a helping of grossness, but like the cigarettes still lying in the ashtrays in the balcony foyer, it is still living history and a reminder of just how incredible a time capsule the Broadway remains today.



Nevertheless, with the freedom to begin caring for the Broadway’s hidden gems, the time arrived to give some much-needed love to the lights that time forgot. The golden bases and glass panels were carefully removed, and a delicate cleaning process commenced. It was during this process that another unexpected discovery was made. As it transpired, the golden bases were in fact not gold at all, and instead just extremely dirty clear Perspex! It appears the Perspex had been fitted as a quick and easy replacement and at some stage spray-painted gold to at least match the aesthetic of the lights themselves. Returning to examine the existing frames, it became clear that actually the lights are not completely intact at all, but instead have had a few key elements removed.


When viewing the frames today, you can three small hooks inside the frame itself, suggesting that once upon a time the lights featured a far more exquisite and elaborate glass feature that hung lower than the existing Perspex bases. There are also three brackets higher up on the outer frame, serving no apparent purpose and again suggesting that another additional element has been lost that originally would have surrounded the entirety of the lights.



So, the lights simple - yet still elegant - appearance today does not quite do justice to the apparent original grandeur. While researching other golden age cinemas across the country, occasionally very similar-looking lights do appear in black-and-white photographs, that could have been very close to those in the Broadway’s foyer. Therefore, despite the missing key elements, three missing glass panels, and (as yet) no photographs that show the exact design, perhaps there could be an opportunity to take inspiration from the past and by exercising creative freedom truly restore the lights to their original glory.

 

The future is yet to be written, yet it is approaching ever faster! Even now as owners of the Broadway in 2024 there is still much to be done to reveal and preserve more original features and designs hidden away over time. So onwards our journey of discovery continues.



We will bring you along every step of the way.

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