Chapel’s cinematic transformation will help revive a Mid Wales coastal town

Boutique cinema, theatre and restaurant investment will attract new visitors, employment and offer wider cultural opportunities in north Ceredigion.

Plans to convert a former Welsh chapel into a boutique cinema, theatre and restaurant will help revive one of Mid Wales’ well-known coastal towns, the couple behind the planned business believe.

Passionate about cinema, film and their community, Peter Fleming and his partner Grug Morris bought Gerlan Chapel in Borth, Ceredigion last year and have submitted a planning application to convert it into a boutique cinema with a theatre, restaurant, community facilities and holiday let accommodation.

Libanus 1877 Theatre will be the first boutique cinema to be opened in Wales for a number of years and will bring back to life one of the town’s chapels which closed five years ago and has been left empty ever since.

The project will create up to eight jobs and help reinforce Borth as a destination for visitors not only wanting to visit the coast, but to enjoy cinema and cultural events as well as boutique accommodation for visitors.

“You have to have a passion for this,” said Peter. “Ever since I went to a boutique cinema in Australia I knew I wanted to open one here in Wales and Gerlan Chapel was the perfect venue.”

“As soon as we bought it I said I want to build a boutique cinema. But we want to ensure it has a good mix and draws in the local community as well as visitors. It’ll be live cinema as well as films and the objective would be to create a destination for culture and cuisine – a place that people will want to travel to and enjoy.”

The couple are working with Aberyswyth and Newtown-based architects practice, Hughes Architects, on the project. They have drawn-up plans that maintain the chapel’s important external architecture while incorporating a cinema, theatre, restaurant and five star accommodation within the interior.

“It’s an exciting project in the heart of one of Ceredigion’s well-known coastal communities,” said Doug Hughes, Managing Director of Hughes Architects, which has offices in Terrace Road, Aberystwyth.

“Peter and Grug are passionate about it. They’re bringing a redundant but important building back into economic and social use,” said Gareth Flynn, architectural technologist working on the project at Hughes Architects.

“We’ve designed plans that are aesthetically sympathetic to the exterior, something that Peter is very passionate about. While ensuring the interior provides a unique experience, whether watching a film, a play or enjoying dining in the restaurant.

“The accommodation is also going to be high end to attract guests who want a five star boutique escape.” 

Peter and Grug are backing the project financially themselves although they will be seeking additional investment. They already run Oriel Tir A Mor Gallery in Borth, a framing workshop and gallery that employs six people.

Plans for Libanus 1877 Theatre shall be submitted to Ceredigion County Council.

The couple hope that a combination of a new well-designed project with economic and social opportunities will be welcomed.

“We have a lovely coastal town here at Borth. People come throughout the year to enjoy the beach, sea and inland countryside. But we want to bring more opportunities and Libanus 1877 is one solution,” said Peter.

“With the onset of an hourly train service along the Cambrian Railway from May this year we believe we can pull in a new group of visitors who can come out and enjoy a film or production, a meal and then return on the train to Aberystwyth or in the opposite direction towards Newtown, Welshpool and Shrewsbury.”