Andy Harrison and Lewis Simpson, who met while studying at the University, run the cinema as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company.
The initiative got off the ground when they met Mike Lockwood at Southport MovieMakers, a small but enthusiastic amateur film and video production club based in the town.
Mike had a dream to see the Bijou come to life. He had been campaigning for a community cinema in Southport for many years but had struggled to find a suitable location until the building, formerly used as a bar and restaurant, went up for sale.
Planning permission to convert the building into a cinema was granted in 2017 and the Southport Bijou Cinema opened to the public in October 2019, with Andy’s friend Phil Pierce coming on board to help out in the first year.
Just five months later, the Covid-19 pandemic meant the cinema had to close temporarily when it had been starting to find its feet.
Mike sadly passed away in 2021 and now Lewis and Andy, along with Phil, continue to grow the cinema in memory of their friend.
The cinema, which is volunteer-run shows a wide range of movies, including classics old and new, independent films not shown in the multiplexes, as well as world cinema.
Lewis, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Film Studies, said: “The whole idea was for us to build a community with a cinema aspect where we can really engage with people.
“The Bijou isn’t just about showing films. People come along because it’s a space where they feel like they belong.
“This was Mike’s dream for such a long time, and we feel honoured to be able to continue it in his memory.”
Andy, a BA (Hons) Film Studies with Film Production graduate, said: “It’s a hidden away little secret right in the middle of Southport where people can come and explore their love of cinema.
“We have some people who come every single day. It’s taken off in a way we never thought it would.
“We’re a Community Interest Company and our motivation isn’t to make a profit. We wanted to give something back to Southport through our love of cinema.
“Historically, the town was one of the biggest hubs for cinema in the UK and now we’re part of that tradition.”
Dr Jenny Barrett, Senior Lecturer in Film, said: “Southport Bijou Cinema is a fantastic venue that the town and wider area can be proud of.
“Lewis and Andy have done an amazing job creating such an interesting, inclusive, and welcoming space for people to explore their love of cinema.
“They have built a real community where people feel a sense of belonging.”
For more information about the Southport Bijou Cinema, please visit: https://southportbijoucinema.co.uk/.
December 16, 2022