Having found his way to Kington from Kent after the recession of the 1990s, retired carpenter Keith Larratt was soon fascinated by The Old Picture House in the town centre, a building that was in need of a considerable amount of TLC ... and cash.

In September, 12 years after the family – Keith, his wife Sue and children Paul and Vicki – acquired the building, it will open as an arts venue for this year's h.Art event and, says Keith, it's taken at least five of those 12 years to complete the restoration.

As the name suggests, The Old Picture House was a cinema from the 1920s to the end of the 60s, when it would become home to the Jehovah's Witnesses, but now it has been given an extensive art deco make-over, with a second floor put in to create the family home.

"It has become a very big tourist attraction," says Vicki, "and we haven't even opened yet." So much of a tourist attraction, she adds, that they've had to put a rope across the door to deter people simply walking in." Among the people interested in what the Larratts have been doing are those who remember it from its time as a cinema.


When you learn that Keith was part of the team who went to Antarctica to build the British Antarctic Survey base and then liberated some surplus timber to build the southernmost bar in the world, The Faraday Bar, the decision to restore an iconic building that was "basically a giant shell", was perhaps unsurprising.

All the work on the Old Picture House has been done by Keith, with many of the materials recycled. "The wooden floor was from the wool shed, taken out and repurposed," and through her work as an industrial electrician, Vicki was able to source perfect lighting that had been discarded, while the stylish welcome desk was created from Tyrrells' pallets.

Before the pandemic hit, the vision for the Old Picture House was to create a jazz bar, but Vicki, who has recently become creative co-ordinator for the Marches Makers arts group, reports that they are pleased now that they didn't: "It would have been a disaster when Covid hit." Instead, it will be a new arts venue for the town, to be used for meetings, classes and, in September, h.Art. And, though they'd like to see The Old Picture House return to showing films, that's a plan for another day.