The Clifton Cinema, Wellington

In a former life, I worked in local radio. On my afternoon show I interviewed a host of interesting people doing interesting stuff. Gradually, I grew dissatisfied with my lot. I didn’t want to be the guy talking to the guy who was doing interesting stuff; I wanted to be the guy doing interesting stuff. Luckily, a career change opportunity was engineered by my manager (he cancelled my contract!) and by a strange chain of events I found myself working in Local Government. I’ve taken a real interest in the potential for social media to unearth social capital in communities and had lots of meaningful conversations with colleagues on the subject. But that’s still talking rather than doing.

A few weeks back, an opportunity presented itself through the wonderful world of Twitter. I live close to the recently vacated Clifton Cinema in Wellington. It hasn’t been a cinema for decades, it’s been used for retail until a few weeks ago. On the day in question, I spotted a retweet relating to a failed attempt by @richardovery to get the building listed. “That’s a shame” I tweeted. “Can’t we get a petition together?” adding the hashtag #savetheclifton. And as Twitter worked its magic, the conversation was joined by @ThinkingRob who’s already been doing some great work in the town and I learned about an #ideasfarm scheduled a few weeks hence. I rejoined the fray by offering a Facebook page that I’d set up to gather support. All this took place within the space of two hours. On the 10th of November I arrived at the offices of Wellington Town Council for the #ideasfarm and was amazed at the turnout. The room was packed. Perhaps not surprisingly, the subject of The Clifton was high on the agenda. A consensus quickly formed around a community run, multi-use arts complex and as introductions were made and the conversations unfolded, I began to witness social capital in action. We had building engineers, crowd-funding experts and a wealth of other talent. And now we’re organising and gathering more and more support.

We’re in the early days of what could be a long haul that could end in disappointment. But it might, just might end in the creation of a wonderful asset and a newly found pride in our community.

And I’m reflecting on the fact that I’m not just talking about it, I’m doing it. And that makes me feel good. #savetheclifton !