Regular Sunday opening for Stornoway's arts centre '˜as soon possible'

A Hebridean arts centre will open on open on Sundays 'as soon as possible' in the wake of a controversial trial.

An Lanntair in Stornoway staged a Sunday opening experiment between January and March to gauge public opinion.
An Lanntair in Stornoway staged a Sunday opening experiment between January and March to gauge public opinion.

The operators of An Lanntair, in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, plan to opens the entire building, including a cinema, cafe-bar, shop, restaurant and art gallery.

The move has been announced in the wake of a pilot opening of part of the complex on three Sundays between January and March.

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The trial had been opposed by church leaders on the island, where only a handful of local businesses open on a Sunday and publicly-owned facilities remain closed.

An Lanntair’s board claims regular seven-day opening would allow the centre to operate as “an inclusive and welcoming community space” on Sundays. However it insists none of the current workforce will be forced to work on Sundays in future.

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A statement from An Lanntair on the outcome of the pilot initiative claims there was “strong demand” for its cinema, the only one on the island, to open every Sunday.

It said it had also found significant backing for An Lanntair to offer “high-quality food and drink” alongside its arts programme on Sundays.

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The statement said: “Each of the three Sunday cinema screenings was very well attended, demonstrating there is strong demand for a cinema offer on Sundays. The arts activities for children and families were popular too.

“Feedback from the trial has shown that opening the arts centre as an inclusive and welcoming community space on Sundays has the potential to contribute to the health and well-being of people across our community.

“The feedback we received during the trial has confirmed that, if we were to open on Sundays, people would like to see our whole building, including the cafe-bar, open and offering high quality food and drink alongside our arts programme.

"We’d like to be able to service this demand to the highest quality, however we’re not quite ready operationally to open on Sundays at the moment. We’ll work to resolve this in the future, and intend to start Sunday opening as soon as operationally possible.

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"It is important to be clear that An Lanntair exists to serve the entire community, and can serve different parts of it in different ways.

"Our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion means that we are continuously seeking new ways to support people to access our programme, services and activities."

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The Reverend James Maciver, minister at the Stornoway Free Church, said: “I’m disappointed, but not surprised that this decision has been taken in principle and that Sunday opening would be extended to all facilities at An Lanntair. It will disappoint most folk in the churches here as we take a very different view of the Lord’s Day

"We're not against An Lanntair or against the arts. I've always argued that what the church is trying to present to people is an alternative to the other days of the week, where you have your overall health looked at, including your spiritual health and your mental health.

"The secular view completely rejects that and doesn't see the need for it. Our concern is that it should be thought of by everybody as an alternative to what people do on other days. It's not really just a matter of people going to church and simply having a time of worship. It's an overall thing for your health, mentally and physically."