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Reprieve for mobile cinema that visits Caithness welcomed

By Gregor White

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The Screen Machine's future appeared in doubt late last year.
The Screen Machine's future appeared in doubt late last year.

News that the Screen Machine has secured funding to help it through the next few years at least has been welcomed.

Marking its 25th anniversary last year operators said, "whilst this is a cause for celebration, there is reason for concern."

The service's purpose-built vehicle was out of action after 17 years, with a temporary cinema being leased by Screen Scotland.

Regional Screen Scotland, the Screen Machine's operators, said it would cost approximately £1.4m to build a new one.

Now, however, Screen Scotland has stepped up to provide funding that will keep the service operating until at least 2026.

Scottish Green MSP for the Highlands & Islands, Ariane Burgess, welcomed the news.

"I'm absolutely delighted that Screen Machine has secured this vital funding lifeline from Screen Scotland," she said.

"As a touring cinema, it plays such an important role in communities across my region that have limited access to arts and cultural amenities.

"Screen Machine doesn't just bring the latest films to our doorsteps, it's a real hub for communities to come together and experience the joy of cinema as a shared experience. Having it on the road ensures no-one gets left behind when it comes to accessing arts and culture.

"I have repeatedly raised the need to support Screen Machine through parliamentary questions, speeches and letters to Ministers. The benefits it provides cut across so many policy areas - reducing rural isolation, promoting the Gaelic language through Gaelic film screenings, and nurturing a love of cinema in young people."

In 2022, Ms Burgess wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture highlighting the educational and cultural value of the touring cinema. She also submitted a parliamentary motion celebrating Screen Machine's 25th anniversary that year.

She added: "Screen Machine is a true mobile marvel and its future is now secure for the next few years at least. I'm delighted Screen Scotland has provided the funding it needs to remain on the road, delighting audiences in every corner of the Highlands and Islands."

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