jam jar cinema
Jam Jar Cinema's founder, Dan Ellis; head of operations, Rachel Arkley; UNW corporate finance partner, Paul Kaiser.
Rebecca Wayman

Whitley Bay independent cinema receives £65k for growth through Big Potential funding

Jam Jar Cinema, situated in the heart of Whitley Bay, has received a £65k grant through Big Potential Advanced.

Big Potential is a £10m fund aimed at eligible voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VCSEs) that want to improve their sustainability, capacity and scale. It helps them deliver greater social impact to communities across England.

The cinema, founded in 2012 by Dan Ellis, takes its name from a 1930s tradition that originated in North Tyneside where children brought jam jars to the cinema in exchange for discounted or free admission.

After receiving initial funding from North Tyneside Council and startup loans, Dan and the team converted a derelict job centre into a single screen venue with a licensed café and 50-seat theatre in September 2013.

Since then, Jam Jar has grown rapidly and now screens over 900 screenings to over 35,000 visitors every year.

The funding means plans have now commenced to expand existing premises; giving them a greater capacity for access, ancillary space and potentially two additional screening rooms.

Chartered accountancy and business advisory firm UNW - the only organisation in the region to offer both Big Potential Breakthrough and Advanced routes - worked with Jam Jar to secure the funding.

Dan, speaking of his delight at the grant application, said: “Jam Jar was born out of a need to diversify Whitley Bay’s economy, and we’re thrilled with how well it’s been adopted by local people.

“There are a lot of great things happening in the town and it’s great to be part of that. We also offer free community space to local groups and run successful education projects and training schemes.

“The corporate finance team at UNW, who helped us secure the funding, is incredibly passionate about the project we are undertaking, and we look forward to a long and successful collaboration with them.”

In addition to their refurbishment project, the funding will also enable Jam Jar to bring in industry specific professionals for brand creation and development, measuring social impact and development and to analyse market demand.

This is in addition to creating a robust investment plan, which will be provided by UNW.

Jam Jar has also recently appointed Rachel Arkley as its new head of operations to support the growth of the venue.

Dan added: “From an idea on a piece of paper five years ago, it’s incredible that Jam Jar is now in a position to bring in very skilled full-time staff members as we look to becoming a venue of regional significance.”

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