Rolling in the isles to a cinema classic

The mobile cinema makes its way through Skye. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The mobile cinema makes its way through Skye. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THEY are looking for a local hero – and that man may now have arrived. When Iain MacColl lands on two of Scotland’s smallest inhabited islands next month he will be there to help grant residents one of their greatest wishes – a night out at the pictures.

MacColl is the driver of the Screen Machine, Scotland’s only mobile cinema. But before the credits roll, he first has to mount a reconnaissance mission to see if is logistically possible to get the massive 36-tonne, 15.5-metre-long Volvo truck off the ferry, up the jetty and to a safe parking space on the islands to run the eagerly awaited show.

Children enjoy a mobile screening of The Secret of Moonacre

Children enjoy a mobile screening of The Secret of Moonacre

It all means an anxious wait for the 90 residents of Eigg and the 42 living on Rum, who, until now, have had to make a two- or three-day round trip to Inverness or Glasgow for the big-screen experience.

Should MacColl’s mission succeed, he at least knows what the islanders want to watch. Although the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, is on offer, they have indicated they would rather see Local Hero, the iconic film made by Bill Forsyth in 1983 about a small community fighting off the attentions of a wealthy tycoon.

The film includes a scene 
in which the helicopter of 
the tycoon, played by Burt 
Lancaster, lands on a beach which has the Small Isles, including Rum and Eigg, in the background.

If the Screen Machine 
endeavour is successful, islanders on the nearby islands of Canna and Muck also plan to come over by boat to join in the entertainment.

The initiative is being supported by actress Tilda Swinton, who, in 2009, gathered 50 people from around the world to physically “drag” the mobile cinema through the Highlands to show films in tiny villages.

Ron Inglis, director of Regional Screen Scotland, which runs the cinema, said he had been looking at the possibility of taking the cinema to Eigg and Rum for some time. “We’re keen to give it a go. These smaller islands can be quite an issue in practical terms meaning that they don’t sometimes get something as spectacular like Screen Machine.

“We would have to do this with the collaboration of the local community and because of the expense involved we’d very probably be looking at it as a special visit, not a regular thing. The reconnaissance is planned and will go ahead 
as soon as possible, weather permitting.”

Maggie Fyffe, secretary of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, said watching films on DVD months after their release did not compare with a night out at the cinema.

“It would be brilliant if we could get it here. I know the cinema would only come once in a blue moon, but it would be a big event for us and folk are definitely very interested.”

Lucy Conway, another Eigg resident, said she was keeping her fingers crossed the cinema would come to the island.

“A lot of people know about the Screen Machine and we’ve been looking at it longingly.

“We all want to ‘go to the pictures’ and the thought of just going down to the end of the pier and sitting in a state-of-the art cinema is amazing. There’s nothing like that on Eigg, it’s a completely mainland experience.

“There has been a lot of talk about getting Local Hero because so many people know it and it would be good for younger people who’ve never seen it to see their own island on the big screen.”

Fliss Fraser, who lives on Rum, said the cinema visit would be the ideal time for her three-year-old daughter Jocelyn to see her first film.

“We’re all getting pretty 
excited by the idea,” Fraser said. “There are a few little ones like Jocelyn on Rum and I can just imagine them with their popcorn. Local Hero has got quite a lot of local interest. It’s one of those iconic films and we would love to see it.”

MacColl said he would have 20 minutes to carry out the reconnaissance missions on each island before the ferry departs.

“When any ferry comes in it is the focal point and that is what we are going to see with the Screen Machine. These are two islands I’ve wanted to come to for a long time and we’ll do everything we can to make it happen.”

Dave Thompson, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, welcomed the initiative, saying: “This is a great idea. It would be a wonderful community event and I’m sure everyone would turn out.”

The Screen Machine, funded by Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Royal Bank of 
Scotland, serves more than 
30 remote communities in the Highlands and Islands and sells over 30,000 tickets each year.

Twitter: @ScotsmanShanR