Dame Judi Dench issues plea to Humza Yousaf over island mobile cinema

The British actress said the project was a 'lifeline' for rural communities in Scotland.

Iconic actress Dame Judi Dench has written to Humza Yousaf in a bid to preserve the the future of a mobile cinema.

The James Bond actress was contacted by pupils at Castlebay Community School in Barra for help to protect the Screen Machine service that has served island communities for over 25 years.

The mobile cinema needs around £1.4m in funding for a new vehicle to continue delivering films on the road across the Highlands and Islands.

Pupils at the school wrote to the 89-year-old to enlist her help and the A-lister responded by sending a copy of the letter she wrote to Yousaf to the school.

A Facebook post from the school read: “We were delighted to receive this letter in the Primary department yesterday and we hope that our persuasive letter writing across our P5-7 classes continues to make a positive impact.

“Thank you Dame Judi – we are so appreciative of your time and support.

A copy of the letter written by Dame Judi Dench to First Minister Humza Yousaf. Photo: Castlebay School/Facebook.

“We now hope Mr Yousaf will be able to help our rural communities too.”

The letter from the actress read: “Dear First Minister,

“I have received many letter from the pupils at Castle Bay School on the isle of Barra begging for help with funding for a new Cinema Bus. Apparently the current one is about to run out of steam in 2024 and they are desperate for the Scottish Government to pay for 50% of the £1.4million needed for a new bus.

“The Cinema Bus is such a lifeline in such a rural community and much enjoyed by both children and adults, although so far only the children have written to me for help. The pupils are aged between 8 and 10 years old and are desperate for the Scottish Government to help them. They have put a lot of effort into their letters and are most sincere in their pleas.

“I do hope you can help.”

Run by the charity Regional Screen Scotland (RSS) the Screen Machine which can be found roaming around the Highlands and Islands, Argyll and Bute, and North Ayrshire, has been hampered by a series of breakdowns.

The Screen Machine needs funding to continue past April 2024 say Regional Screen Scotland. Photo: RSS.Regional Screen Scotland

Screen Scotland stepped in last year to lease a new cinemobile from French company Toutenkamion but the lease ends in April 2024.

RSS say it needs the Scottish Government to provide 50% of the cost, enabling them to pay a deposit and begin the build and start fundraising.

Harriet Warman, development coordinator of Regional Screen Scotland, said in August 2023: “The impact of the pandemic means that Scottish Government funding has rightly prioritised emergency and recovery funding for cultural organisations like ours.

“This has however pushed back our capital fundraising plans due to a lack of statutory commitment of public funds, and put annual funding at a standstill, limiting our capacity to raise funds for a new machine.

“We now need the public’s help to write to the First Minister or their local MSP, asking for Scottish Government funding to commission a new, more sustainable, greener machine, so that we can continue to provide this important service.”

The First Minister is said to have received the letter and will reply in due course.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government understands the unique cultural contribution that the Screen Machine makes to communities who otherwise would struggle to visit the cinema.

“We continue to liaise with relevant parties to explore any avenues for support.”

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