The Gala, is a huge box like Art Deco building dating from the early 1930’s, a factory to entertainment from the pre telly era. Designed by Robert Cromie one of the foremost cinema architects of the time it’s an incredibly bold statement that rears up shadowing the surrounding terraces of 19thcentury shops and houses.
There is great affection for this monumental building, industrial sized, built from house bricks, the extreme mix of scale, adds to the heavy, brutal look. The few openings in the unrelenting brick structure are punctuated with superficial decoration, made up of horizontal and vertical bands and floral clusters. This simplicity of style creates high drama, which is used effectively, visually enlarging the building as well as signposting the entrance while increasing the visitors anticipation.
There is congruity of design, the exterior features repeated in greater detail on the interior. The design scheme of the more highly embellished interior space retains the feel that it is superficial decoration. There was a wealth of original detail, read the fascinating report on the original palatial decor here. And of course no cinema was complete without a mightly Whurlitzer organ, oh I’d love to have seen that!
Over the past couple of years the future of building has been in the centre of intense, heated debate. To see this monolith being destroyed piecemeal by the previous owner, carried all the distress of witnessing a great hapless beast being taken to it’s knees.
A couple of weeks ago the new owners CNM Estates invited interested local residents to have the rare treat of taking a look inside the boarded up building. On a cold, dark winter evening a long queue formed outside the derelict building as we waited to go in. Then it was our turn to put on hard hats and high viz jackets, before we went through the tiny side door to be plunged into the darkness of the rubble strewn hall, a vast, sloping, overwhelming space, like being in the belly of a whale. Afterwards there was a busy meeting for local residents to view development possibilities and to workshop ideas for the space. The suggested plans are here, take a look and send in your ideas.
In a town known primarily for its wealth of high street chain stores, it’s exciting that this gateway building presents the opportunity to create a destination attraction. Of course I’d like to think there was going to be a great little boutique hotel, a roof garden and a space for visiting exhibitions and conferences. Let’s see what happens.