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Around 250 people went through the doors for the controversial first Sunday opening of the Stornoway arts centre.


The move has angered many traditionalists who point out the commercial premises are closed on Sundays reflecting the historic local island values of observing the Sabbath.


The first cinema-goers arrived as worshippers left services at two nearby churches.


People filed past two pro-Sunday observance campaigners, holding placards denouncing the Sabbath-breaking event.


Many had tickets for the sold out new Stars Wars film - The Last Jedi - while others participated in children’s activity workshop building a model Death Star or viewed an exhibition of art works made from marine litter.


As worshippers left services at two nearby churches, early birds congregated outside the venue.


An Lanntair is opening on the last Sunday of the month for a trial period in order to test demand for seven day operations.


The bar and restaurant was closed but hot coffee and snacks were available.


Views are split locally on the development. Some say it is moderisation, others call it equality while a section consider it to be a another example of creeping secularism into island life.


Dramatic change in the Sabbath landscape compared to just a few years ago has seen the introduction of seven-day ferries and planes while a number of pubs and a couple of shops now open on the Lewis Sunday.


However, many islanders who are not church goers nor particularly religious strongly back Sunday observance where shops, public services and facilities are shut.


One of the campaigners, Rev David S Fraser, a minister in the Free Church Continuing, said: “We are here to remind people that this is a holy day set aside for the worship of God and for honouring the Lord Jesus.


“Its quite out of place to be spending our time just on our own worldly pleasures.


“It’s a shame people are sinning their own souls by violating God’s clear instructions to keep this day different.


“I am duty bound to remind people that they have a soul to be saved and they will not save it by going into this film.”


It is one of “many distractions the devil puts in our way” he added.


An Lanntair’s chairman David Green highlighted: “The most important thing to us in the way we approach equality, diversity, inclusion is to do what we can for the people who trust us with this building and its resources.”


It was identified an audience was interested in Sunday events in the venue and a programme was devised.

















The Star Wars blockbuster - which would guarantee sold out seats - was was not deliberate chosen but “it so happened the film the distributors sent us this time was The Last Jedi.”


He added: “We have not set this up as a way to get lots of people in on a Sunday” and they were in the dark as to what film would arrive when they chose the trial opening dates.


Mr Green said he understood the local tradition of keeping Sunday special but “when it comes to do with what people choose to do on any day of the week its not fair - and certainly not within the bounds of our approach to equality and cultural diversity - that any group should impose on any other what they can or can’t do.”


“We have been really careful to do this in a way we hope will be least intrusive. There isn’t a bar and we are not serving meals.


“It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon for families.”


The trial opening will be reviewed and “how we continue is completely undecided at the moment.


Mr Green pledged: “Nobody who works for An Lanntair will be asked to work on a Sunday if they do not want to.”


250 people at An Lanntair’s Sunday opening

29 January 2018

An Lanntair’s chairman David Green