Restored Wurlitzer organ to be unveiled at Bowness cinema

The Westmorland Gazette: Mark Latimer tries out the vintage 1920s Wurlitzer organ Mark Latimer tries out the vintage 1920s Wurlitzer organ

A RARE 1920s cinema organ, painstakingly restored to its former glory, will be unveiled in the Lake District this weekend.

The instrument was saved from ruin by a group who have dedicated five years to its meticulous renovation.

To celebrate completion of the project a special day of events will take place at its home at the Royalty Cinema in Bowness on Saturday.

Mark Latimer, who led the restoration, said: “It is quite amazing that it is finished. It was in such a terrible condition we didn’t know if it would play at all.”

The Wurlitzer organ was originally installed at a theatre in Ohio but was shipped to England in 1934 when ‘talkies’ superseded silent films in the USA.

It was used occasionally at the Rex Cinema in East London until the 1970s.

In 2007, Mr Latimer found the organ in Scotland after reading about it on the internet. He formed the Furness Theatre Organ Project with like-minded folk and began five years of fund-raising and work to buy and restore the instrument.

He said: “It was in a horrendous state; it had been in storage in a rat-infested, damp building for 35 years. The organ has thousands of little bellows about two or three inches long and each had to be recovered in leather.

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“We have had to raise £25,000, which has been done through all sorts of donations, raffles, coffee mornings, dances and concerts. We also received grants.”

Mr Latimer added: “After about three years it just seemed that, however many hours we spent on it, it didn’t move any further on, but now it sounds just as good, if not better, than it does on LP recordings.

“It is an amazing instrument, with not just the organ music but sound effects from steam trains and horses’ hooves to car horns and bird song — all the different things you would need to accompany a silent film.”

The restored Wurlitzer will be officially re-launched at a special concert at 2pm on Saturday when theatre organist Chris Powell will be at the console.

He will be joined by David Shepherd and David Ivory, who both played the organ at its former London home.

Mr Ivory will then play the organ to accompany a silent film, Safety Last.

Tickets for both events are available from the Royalty box office – at £9 for the concert, £6 for the film, or £12 for both. Details are available at www.ftop.weebly.com

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