Oldest cinema in Wales closes down temporarily due to suspected asbestos

Wales’ oldest cinema has been forced to close while investigation work is carried out into possible asbestos at the site.

An inspection of building works at the 122-year-old Market Hall Cinema in Brynmawr – where a second screen is being built – uncovered an area of potential contamination.

Blaenau Gwent Council issued a prohibition notice as a precaution, which restricts access to the building.

Investigation work is now being carried out.

But a message on the cinema’s website from the community group which runs the venue states they hope to reopen as soon as possible.

The statement says:

“During preparatory works for the building of our second screen, it was brought to our attention by Blaenau Gwent CBC that due to age of the building there might be asbestos present in the roof void above the adjacent former town library, where the second screen will be located.

As a precautionary measure – and as the health and safety of our loyal customers and volunteers is always our charity’s first priority – we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the cinema while our appointed contractors complete their investigations.”

Brynmawr Market Hall – built as a market and a public hall for concerts and entertainment – opened on February 28, 1894.

Council funding cuts threatened to close the cinema in 2013, but it was taken over by a community group which has quadrupled the number of screenings, held all-night cult film screenings, a children’s film festival and the world premiere of the film Svengali, written and produced by Merthyr actor Jonny Owen.

It also won the title of UK Cinema of the Year 2014. Plans for the new 130-seat screen include state of the art digital projection and sound, luxury chairs, as well as restoring the space to the Art Deco glory of its 1930s heyday.

A spokesman for Blaenau Gwent council said:

“Following a recent council inspection of building works undertaken by Market Hall Cinema, Brynmawr, an area of potential asbestos contamination was discovered.

As a precaution the council has issued a prohibition notice to the cinema, which restricts access to the building and the cinema is temporarily closed to the public.

Blaenau Gwent council is working closely with the directors of Market Hall and Public Health Wales to assist the cinema with testing plans and any subsequent remedial work.

The timescale for this process is not yet known and it is anticipated that the cinema will remain closed until further notice.”

Asbestos was used widely in building work, including in ceiling tiles and insulation, from the 1950s to the mid 1980s.

But when the material is disturbed fibres are released which, if breathed in, can cause cancer.