In 2010, the Sheffield Theatre Organ Society announced its closure and offered the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust their Compton Cinema Organ, (ex Astoria, Purley) which was installed at the City School, Sheffield. The volunteers and trustees of the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust had been contemplating the idea of creating a workshop facility, where Cinema Organ parts could be restored or manufactured, so the timing of the offer of the Compton just seemed to fall into place and so the ‘Astoria Project’ was born.
Following a search for premises in the Barnsley area, a suitable building was found at Metro Trading Centre, Barugh Green, Barnsley. The building is part of an industrial / storage complex and offered all the facilities that were high on the list of criteria, namely 24/7 access, centrally located, close to the M1 motorway, good public transport links and use of a large free car park. It was also important that the building was of sufficient height and size for the Compton to be installed and that the building could be converted into a heritage centre. In April 2010, contracts were signed and the removal of the Compton from Sheffield began.
As the parts of the Compton began to arrive, it was clear this was not going to be a small or easy project. Firstly, the Compton required a full strip-down and restoration. Secondly, the building was a basic ‘empty’ shell and it would require pipe chambers to be constructed, as well as fixtures and fittings. Thirdly, despite the whole project being very much volunteer-based, it was going to take considerable funds in order to complete. A £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was obtained for costs towards the restoration of the organ and several other smaller grants were awarded from a number of organisations such as The Liz & Terry Bramhall Trust, The ASDA Foundation and Barnsley Council, which helped to fund the building works required to construct the organ chamber area and venue. The remaining funds were raised by private donations and revenue generated by events promoted by the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust. Because the whole project was primarily focused around volunteers and encouraging people to get involved with a heritage instrument, many costs were reduced, however the entire ‘Astoria Project’ ended up costing just over £150,000 by the time it was ready to open in March 2016.
The Astoria Centre looks considerably different from when the project commenced and it’s just as difficult to imagine how it looked back then as it was for the volunteers to visualise how the finished venue would look when it all began. The Astoria Centre is constantly evolving and items are added or displays changed from time to time. Regular events are presented which feature the Compton Organ in wide variety of uses, which showcase the versatility of the instrument and venue.
Why not become a ‘Friend of the Astoria Centre’ by setting up a regular donation from as little as £5.00 a month, knowing that your support is helping to preserve the Cinema Organ for future generations and help fund the running costs of this unique venue.
Wanting to be more involved?.... The Astoria Centre is entirely operated by volunteers and there are always a number of volunteering opportunities available. Learn how a Cinema Organ works, or help maintain the collection. There’s also opportunities to help out in the restoration workshop and archive too. Please contact us ............... should you wish to volunteer.