How many High Streets in Great Britain can boast their very own independent art-house cinema?

Totnes Cinema CIC is a social enterprise, set up by a local couple, passionate about film and excited about Totnes. So far the project has been entirely funded by local donations and memberships and the success of its carefully chosen programme, and we still have plenty more to do!! All the bar staff, stewards, and musicians volunteer their time and are paid with the chance to watch the film.

Totnes Cinema is located in the heart of Totnes, down a hidden passageway just off the High St. Our mission was to bring back the magic of cinema to our local town. We were inspired by a wonderful photograph, taken in the late 1940s of boys holding banners saying “Save our Cinema,” and in true Totnes style, they marched up the High St to make their feelings known. There had been a cinema in Totnes from the early days of film and the last remaining one, The Romany, closed its doors in 1964 due to falling audiences. The building became the well-loved Totnes Library until its expansion and relocation, and the building fell empty. As a local couple, film lovers and with teenage children, we took on the challenge of re-creating a cinema for our local town center to create a social and cultural hub in the town.

As you leave the hustle and bustle of the market day, you are taken into this unique and surprising space, more like a Berlin cabaret than a cinema, with subdued lighting, comfy sofas, bistro table and chairs and luxurious cinema seats on the balcony. We even have a baby grand piano!

As a truly independent cinema, we can offer a wide range of films, carefully chosen from all genres including classic black and white film noir, the best from musical theatre, and modern-day classics and Oscar winners.

With a fully licensed bar which stretches the width of the building, beneath an enormous screen we encourage people to come early and enjoy cocktails, fine wines, and craft beers and to meet up with friends, often with live music and a showreel of classic adverts. There is always someone around afterward, to chat and discuss the film. On a Saturday you can pop in for excellent coffee and homemade cake, as our “mystic portal” opens up to daylight.

We believe we add to the uniqueness of our wonderfully independent High St and complement all the many individual traders and businesses around us, bringing life to the evenings on the High St as well as the days.

Jane Hughes, Director of Totnes Cinema

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The River Dart and Totnes – Trade and the Town

As well as being a key feature of the town's picturesque landscape the River Dart has been an important part of trade in Totnes for hundreds of years. Today Totnes is a tourist hotspot but up until the late 20th century it was an important trading post on a busy river. Wool and Wealth Totnes owes much of its Elizabethan charm to the River Dart, the trade it enabled making many merchants rich and allowing them to build luxurious houses that still stand to this day. In the 16th century Wool and tin were the main exports, and helped Totnes to become the second wealthiest community in the country. As Totnes failed to respond to new trends in cloth manufacturing, and tin production in Ashburton declined, the boom failed to last and trade on the river diminished. However, as of 1636 it was still rated the country's fifth wealthiest community. As debris from the last of the tin mines made it difficult to navigate the river, traders started to go to Dartmouth instead. Plains Sailing It may not have recaptured the town's Elizabethan heyday but the area of Totnes now known as The Plains was once a thriving district of factories exporting the goods they produced via The Dart. Notable businesses included cider makers Bentall, Lloyd and Co, and Symons and Co. Today upmarket residences can now be found where the factories once stood. Although the coming of the railway reduced the demand for traders on the river the Dart remains an important part of the town's economy as a tourist attraction. Anyone visiting Totnes can make the most of the beautiful river, whether it's by hiring a canoe, walking along its banks, or taking a cruise down to Dartmouth.

Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town

Situated at the head of the Dart Estuary and surrounded by beautiful countryside, renowned for its history, retail, eateries and alternative lifestyle, Totnes has become a destination town, for many reasons, for visitors and locals alike. But, did you know that Totnes is also a Fairtrade Town and has been so since 2011? The town is home to a range of small independent retailers selling ethical products, whole foods and, most importantly, fair trade goods. Totnes even has two award winning shops for fair trade. One for Fairtrade food and one for fair trade gifts and homewares. Each year businesses and organisations are invited to enter the Business Awards by Fairtrade South West. These awards are open to everyone from national chains to sole traders, universities to hotels, food retailers and cafés. More information on this can be found at www.bristolfairtrade.org.uk/south-west-fairtrade-business-award. At this point you may have noticed that the phrases Fair-trade  and fair trade have been used. To clarify, Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation, and works with producers of foods, tea, coffee and cotton. Fair trade is when craft and artisan producers of gift and homewares in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work by people and businesses in developed countries. These businesses are certificated as a fair trade supplier by the British Association of Fair Trade Suppliers (BAFTS) and/or the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). Key Principles of Fair Trade: • Trading practices are fair and not one-sided. • Prices paid are fair and sufficient for producers and workers to earn more than enough to meet their day-to-day needs. • Payments are often made in advance to ensure the supplier can fulfil orders. • The payment of premiums for producers and workers to use for infrastructure projects. • Producers and workers have a voice, whether organised into groups or involved in workplaces where there is freedom of association. • Safe working conditions, non-discrimination and welfare of children. The start of Totnes’ journey to become a recognised Fairtrade Town began September 2006 when a small steering group was established and they began with asking Totnes Town Council to use Fairtrade tea and coffee and to ascertain which shops sold Fairtrade products. In less than a month it was established that 5 independent businesses and two high street brands in Totnes were selling Fairtrade products. This number was to grow. Currently, there are 32 independent retailers in Totnes selling fair trade foods and homewares. Between 2007 and 2010 the Totnes Fairtrade Group began to investigate how the town was to become a recognised Fairtrade town- and consider how to meet the 5 goals as set by The Fairtrade Foundation:- 1.Local council to pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade and agrees to serve Fairtrade products. 2.A range of Fairtrade products are readily available in the area's retail outlets and served in local cafes, restaurants and pubs. 3.Local workplaces and community organisations support Fairtrade and use Fairtrade products wherever possible. 4.Media coverage and events raise awareness and understanding of Fairtrade across the community. 5.A local Fairtrade steering group is convened to ensure the Fairtrade Town campaign continues to develop and gain new support. By July 2010, following a lot of hard work by the volunteer group, an application was made to the Fairtrade Foundation. And in April 2011 Totnes was granted Fairtrade Status. Every two years since the group have to reapply, showing planned actions, that objectives set 2 years previous had been achieved and then set a programme for the coming 2 years. In February 2007 the Totnes Fairtrade group promoted their first Fairtrade Fortnight, which is organised nationally by the Fairtrade Foundation and locally by volunteer groups. They approached schools, offering to take assemblies and explain what Fairtrade is. The local churches and church groups were approached and asked if they would consider using Fairtrade tea and coffee for their meetings, they were very supportive of the idea and soon all were using Fairtrade teas and coffees for their meetings and social functions. This celebration of Fairtrade runs from the final Monday in February for two weeks; and every year since 2007 the group go out to the schools and the businesses in Totnes, to increase awareness of Fairtrade products, whether that that be food, clothes, homewares or gifts. Over the years a number of growers from developing nations have been invited to Totnes to give talks on how Fairtrade has affected them. These visits are arranged by Devon Fairtrade and each local group. The Totnes Fairtrade group raise funds during the year to contribute to the speakers travel and visa costs (along with other South West Fairtrade Groups who will also hold an event). This year Victor Biwot, Operations Manager from Sereet Tea Corporation in the Nandi Hills, Kenya. He will give a power point presentation to local primary and secondary school pupils at a conference being facilitated by King Edward VI Community College, Totnes, so they can see where he lives, the tea plantation and factory in which he works and how Fairtrade has benefited his life. During this year's Fairtrade Fortnight - 26th February to 11th March 2018 - many food and retail outlets across Totnes will have counter displays and leaflets explaining all about Fairtrade. This year's theme is "Come on in" and meet the farmers and workers who grow our food, whose lives have been improved thanks to Fairtrade. The Totnes Fairtrade Group have used many novel ways to raise the awareness of Fairtrade and to raise funds. From being dressed as bananas for the local carnival to selling fruit smoothies, using Fairtrade fruit donated by local businesses, during a recent market event. This type of fundraising, along with coffee mornings, is now to have signs erected on the approaches to Totnes declaring that Totnes is a Fairtrade Town. Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. It's when the price we pay for products gives enough to producers for them to afford life's essentials - like food, education and healthcare. So Totnes is a great place to live, visit, eat and shop. It is an ethical town, it is a Fairtrade Town – and proud of it.  

Revamp of the Bull Inn

Article by Kate Philbin at the Totnes Times. As the planning application was submitted for the transformation of a historic town centre pub, the woman behind the plans has been speaking out about her extraordinary life. Geetie Singh-Watson, 48, known to many as the wife of Riverford entrepreneur Guy Watson, is the driving force behind the redevelopment of The Bull Inn in Totnes which aims to become an organic gastropub with letting rooms upstairs. However, it is not an extension of the Riverford empire but a project in its own right and it is hers and hers alone, Geetie insists. She says that people assume The Bull will be run by Riverford or is being financed by Riverford but actually it is neither. Raised on a commune in Herefordshire by a mother who was a builder, Geetie was no stranger to hands-on manual work from an early age. Her mother, Liz Singh, bought and restored a derelict cottage, installing everything from the sewage system to the windows. She was “a powerful role model” for Geetie as was her father, Gurmukh Singh, a Sikh entrepreneur who first came to the UK in the 1950s. He founded the first Indian restaurant in London that was owned by its staff. One of its backers was Salman Rushdie. Later, her mother remarried and her stepfather, Geoff Petty, an educationalist whose work is used to this day by schools such as Totnes Progressive School, also proved a great role model. At the age of 28, Geetie opened her first “values-driven gastropub”, The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. Inspired by her hardworking parents and the example set by women like Anita Roddick, Geetie was determined to create a thriving pub business that was both ethical and profitable, without compromising on staff welfare or the quality of ingredients. She needed £350,000 to build the business. “I asked everyone I knew if they would be interested in investing. No one gave anything they couldn’t afford to lose, it was a gamble but it was fun.” The pub broke even in its first year. Geetie admits she was “too young and cocky” and she “should have listened” to advice from Anita Roddick, who told steadily to build a stable and effective business. Instead, swept along by the dotcom boom, Geetie bought two more pubs in London. “As the business expanded the passion got lost. Within five years I sold off the two other pubs and just kept The Duke of Cambridge. Overall it was a positive experience but I felt bad for the investors.” Despite these knockbacks, Geetie believes the experience gave her a far greater understanding of business. “You don’t learn in business when you are being successful, you learn from your failures. If I were investing I would never invest with someone who hasn’t failed at least once because they know nothing.” Geetie sold The Duke of Cambridge to Guy Watson four years ago. At the time she was a trustee of the Soil Association and a founder member of the London Food Board with Ken Livingston. She was also working with schools in deprived areas to teach children about healthy cooking. When she met Guy it wasn’t exactly a match made in Heaven. She said: “I had known of him in the organic world for many years but he came to talk to me in 2007 about setting up a pub in London. I thought, what are you doing here on my patch? I was very frosty.” The pair met again some years later through the Soil Association and it was a very different meeting. “I realised our business values were completely aligned and that he was extraordinary.” They married in 2014. Geetie spent three years running The Riverford Field Kitchen but stopped to concentrate on developing The Bull.
She has always been fascinated by town centre pubs and looks out for any that are for sale in a town “in the way that other people look out for houses”. She said: “I love The Bull. It looks beautiful and it has great views and a big, corner site in front of an open square. It is slightly off the beaten track which I love as it means tourists have to put some effort into discovering it.” The pub is currently in a run-down condition and requires extensive restoration. Geetie has plans to turn it into an organic, values-driven gastropub but without losing its traditional heritage. Its name won’t change as she believes “pub names should be protected, they are part of our history”. The restoration work, which will cost in excess of half a million, is being funded by the sale of Geetie’s London flat. “I rather like the fact that property equity, which feels like an unfair distribution of wealth, is being used to bring a historic Totnes pub back to life.”
If all goes to plan, the pub will open in Summer 2019. Around 30 jobs will be created and it will use local, organic suppliers. Geetie said: “I grew up in a staunchly feminist household – my mum could strip down a car engine! The fact that people assume Guy is funding my business has opened up a new conversation in our household about feminism. It is great. Guy is a real feminist, he took my name when we got married. It is an exciting time.” The planning application for The Bull is available on the SHDC website, reference: 3376/18/LBC