Liverpool Lighthouse started life in 1998 as Community TOP Ltd;
A charity set up by Love and Joy ministries as theUK’s first dedicated Urban Gospel Music and Arts Centre.
Housed in a former Gaumont Palace Cinema onOakfield Road, Anfield the building was called ‘The TOP Centre’ until 2005 when Community TOP Ltd changed its name to Liverpool Lighthouse Ltd, and the building was renamed to reflect this change.
The Gaumont Palace Cinema building was purchased by Love andJoyMinistriesin 1997. At the time of purchase the building was entirely derelict. An extensive £1.5 million refurbishment – phased over five years – transformed the disused spaces in the large art deco building into a fantastic facility with dedicated learning areas, performance space, office space and a bistro.
The project was funded by a number of organisations including the ERDF and the Lancaster Foundation and the centre was formally opened in November 2003 by the Duchess of Gloucester.
Improvements to the building continue and in spring 2012 a brand new goods lift and professional theatre curtains were installed enabling Liverpool Lighthouse to host a wider range of performances and events.
Liverpool Lighthouse is built on an area of land that had been a fruit plantation and the site of housing for Victorian Merchants. It later became The Vale Training Home and Orphanage at the turn of the century.
In 1912, such was the demand for the new French phenomenon of film that King’s Hall Cine Variety Theatre was built on the site. King’s Hall would have projected one-minute film clips as part of a vaudeville programme of music, comedy and dance.
The people of Liverpoolwould have been intrigued by this new medium which showed a single scene of everyday life. Although the films were silent, live music accompanied the shows. In addition to the theatre, the building housed a billiard room and two shops.
Cinema’s popularity grew and so in 1931, at a cost of £50,000 – which included the demolition of the former buildings – the new Gaumont Palace Cinema was built. The cinema, part of an international chain, was built in the modern art deco style. Many of these architectural features can still be seen throughout Liverpool Lighthouse. The Gaumont Palace Cinema was the first cinema to show ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’, Britian’s first Technicolor film.
The cinema showed its last film in November 1960. There wasn’t another film screening in the building until ‘Amazing Grace’ was previewed at Liverpool Lighthouse in 2007. Periodic heritage tours take place in the building