Fort cinema boss fumes over cancelled school bookings

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Highland Cinema owner Angus MacDonald has been left furious this week after a decision to cancel around £10,000 in festive season bookings for local school children in the wake of Covid concerns.

Speaking to the Lochaber Times, Mr MacDonald said: ‘We’ve just had thousands of pounds-worth worth of Christmas bookings from primary school groups cancelled by Highland Council.

‘Kids face the front with masks on when at the cinema, so what is the difference between classes and a screen? Last year they all came and that was prior to jabs.

‘December is the only month from the end of October until Easter that we – indeed all Highland hospitality – have a chance of breaking even.’

Highland Cinema owner Angus MacDonald. NO F48 Cinema Angus DSC_1949
Highland Cinema owner Angus MacDonald.
NO F48 Cinema Angus DSC_1949

Mr MacDonald has now taken this issue up with constituency MSP Kate Forbes, asking her to look into the matter.

‘The problems of trying to get through to speak to the right person at the council have been extraordinary,’ he added.

‘As far as I am aware only Highland Council is doing this and they just don’t seem to have considered the implications for businesses like ours. It just seems to be box ticking and the truth is that it is incredibly damaging.’

Asked to explain the reasoning behind the cancellation decision for the bookings at the cinema in Fort William’s Cameron Square, a Highland Council spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘Following our current educational setting position statement based on Scottish Government guidance for schools, and to mitigate further spread of Covid-19 in our schools, The Highland Council has made the difficult decision to suspend festive school trips for 2021.

‘The safety and wellbeing of pupils and staff remains a priority. The Highland Council operates a devolved school management which allows individual schools to plan their own in-school seasonal activities.

‘Eden Court [theatre and cinema complex in Inverness] is working hard to provide virtual festive events that schools could consider attending.

‘We remain hopeful that by keeping festive activities school-based again this year, that we can all enjoy fun with family and friends during the holiday period.’

But Mr MacDonald said: ‘I am absolutely shocked by this decision which doesn’t seem to be following Scottish Government guidelines either and not something being replicated by other councils across Scotland.

‘We will lose £10,000 in bookings as a result of this at a time when money has never been needed more.

‘And to do this now in the run up to Christmas, this year of all years, when kids are really in need of a break and some fun more than ever is very disappointing.’

Meanwhile, Ms Forbes told the Lochaber Times: ‘Last Christmas, lots of children in the Fort William area enjoyed a special end of term treat by going to the cinema to watch a film. Understandably, many were keen to do the same again this year.

Local MSP Kate Forbes. NO-F-42-KATE-FORBES-SERIOUS-01.jpg
Local MSP Kate Forbes.
NO-F-42-KATE-FORBES-SERIOUS-01.jpg

‘Whilst I understand that the health and safety of pupils and staff is paramount, it would appear strange that other school trips have been continuing, but yet a visit to the cinema has been banned.

‘I have been seeking clarification about the reasons for this from Highland Council’s senior officers in Inverness, who I understand are responsible for the local authority’s guidance, and I am disappointed I am a week on without a response.’

 

NO F08 Highland Cinema

Extra pic:

Highland Cinema owner Angus MacDonald. NO F48 Cinema Angus DSC_1949

Local MSP Kate Forbes.

NO-F-42-KATE-FORBES-SERIOUS-01.jpg