Whitley Bay cinema continues to draw in the crowds

Dan Ellis, who set up the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay.
Dan Ellis, who set up the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay.

A popular theatre is proving to be a valuable community asset, not just for film lovers.

The Jam Jar Cinema, in Whitley Bay, is currently showing a host of Oscar-nominated films but has also become a thriving hub for community groups to meet.

Set up by Dan Ellis due to the lack of cinemas in the community, it reinvests any profits in education programmes for local young people to help get them into the creative industries or to outreach and events for isolated people.

It now boasts a 50-seater theatre and café, giving its army of volunteers the chance to learn new skills.

Dan has been supported by Star People – a programme delivered by UnLtd in partnership with Local Trust to support people to start social ventures in Big Local areas.

He said: “I have to say it has been a terrific year for films and as a result we have done really well.

“We’ve moved from being volunteer-run to having eight members of staff, all of whom previously volunteered here. It’s been quite unbelievable how adopted and much-loved the venue has become.”

Dan added: “Cinema isn’t about the films or the experience, it’s about the people you go with.

“Films are accessible and give people something to talk about.

“The other big thing about Jam Jar Cinema is that I think we are the only non-pub place open on an evening for the wider community. Yes, you can get a drink here but it isn’t pubby’

“We get lots of groups: PTAs, craft groups, book clubs and even a group of roving ukulele players who come and use the space on a night-time.”

“We are not like any other cinema.

“We subsidise the cost for community groups so they can hold their own socials and fund-raisers.

“Amazingly, since we have been open this has raised over £80,000 for local good causes. We’ve also brought in quite a lot of funding for audience development initiatives and education activities.”

The venue has also played a key role in helping other charities in North Tyneside.

Dan said: “More than any other film we have screened at Jam Jar Cinema, I, Daniel Blake has had the most profound effect on people.

“It’s been met by two responses: a round of applause or stunned silence. It’s especially poignant for anyone living here in the North East.

“I described it as a film about everything and nothing as to so many people struggling to get by it is the everyday.

“We were very fortunate that Dave Johns, who plays the lead role came and did a post-show Q+A. He is a genuinely top bloke and its fantastic to see how his life has changed because of the film.

“For our screening, we partnered with our local food bank to do bucket collections and collect food during the screenings. We also donated 20p per admission so we managed to raise over £600 and drop off a car full of food.

“They do an amazing job and we are so delighted with our audience’s generosity.”

For more on the cinema visit www.jamjarcinema.com