Organ donation is music to Trust’s ears

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IT started life in the Astoria cinema in Purley, Surrey, and in the intervening seven decades has been installed in cinemas, schools and even private homes in Scotland, King’s Lynn, Spalding and Sheffield.

Today the 1934 Compton Organ is in 1,000 pieces, but with the help of a £50,000 lottery grant, it is set to become the centrepiece of a new Organ Heritage and Restoration Centre on the edge of Barnsley.

Members of the Penistone Cinema Organ Trust took on the instrument several years ago, and until now had nowhere to properly clean, rebuild and display it. But the grant, announced today, will change that.

Kevin Grunill, a former organist at Blackpool’s world-famous Tower Ballroom, is the trust’s chairman and led the cash bid which will see the organ centre open in an industrial unit in Barugh Green, Barnsley.

Mr Grunill said: “It will take 12 to 18 months to rebuild and restore the pipe organ, and we are looking for volunteers to help us meet the deadline.

“Once it is finished we plan to work on the inside of our building and make it look like an old cinema so people can come and see and hear the organ in its proper surroundings.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will allow visitors to learn about the history of the cinema organ and enjoy the music and varied sounds that can be produced from an instrument of this nature.

“By restoring part of these instruments in our own workshops, we will be able to pass on traditional restoration skills to other groups or individuals.”

Fiona Spiers, the head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Yorkshire said the Astoria Project, as it will be known, would “help conserve a wonderful piece of organ cinema history.”.

She added: “This will open the experience of early cinema-going to new audiences and by training volunteers in traditional restoration skills it will support the heritage sector in future.”