Juliet and David Maclay acquired the Axbridge Lion, a derelict coaching inn in the pretty Somerset town of Axbridge, in 1997. On the surface a Georgian coaching inn, like its neighbours it is much older in parts, having been the Red Lion for over 250 years and, it is believed, a farm for centuries before.
Genetically, The Lion is still a place for the community to come together and have fun, and during the 15 years of its renovation, it has hosted many a party and theatre production.
The former coaching entrance (the public bar when the Maclays acquired it – complete with full ashtrays and pints of beer left over from its last night of trading over 2 years before!), slopes gently uphill situated as it is on the southern slopes of the Mendip Hills. This same slope inspired the development of the Roxy – and the Axbridge Film Society was formed with a small committee dedicated to opening what is now the smallest cinema in England (seating 36).
Thanks to the renovation of Bristol’s Colston Hall the Roxy acquired some old theatre seats, and vintage fabric was deployed in covers for the stools and chairs inherited with the pub fittings to create a bar. A grant from the Big Lottery Fund added the surround-sound and projection equipment, and countless volunteers from the town and neighbouring villages have worked hard over the seven years that the Roxy has been screening vintage and contemporary film to create this charming theatre. The Roxy now plays host not just to film but to community gatherings, archive and artists’ film, parties for all ages and stand-up comedy.
The Roxy was in luck when Interior and Set Designer Sarah Laborde became a neighbour in 2008. Sarah’s design work includes many years as an Art Director and Set Dresser for Aardman Animations, producing sets for the Wallace and Gromit films and other projects. Sarah brought her expertise on miniature sets to work with the Roxy volunteers on the miniature cinema, and is largely responsible for the lovely little foyer, with its exuberant Art Nouveau styling surrounding an Art Deco box office, from which the Roxy volunteers dispense tickets for the weekly shows, as the bar staff serve local Cheddar Ales from the 1950s style cocktail bar. This latest work was completed thanks to a further grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
The Roxy plans for the future include one more redevelopment on the site – adding a kitchen, and hope to add a travelling element, imagining a large vintage canvas tent and an ‘outside broadcast kit’; so we can extend our reach to local and nearby events, fun days and care facilities.