This Thursford cinema has got wheels

A Thursford carpenter with a love of illusion has used his creative talents to build a Romany caravan with a difference.

From the outside it is a traditional Romany caravan, complete with curved roof and intricate carvings on the doors.

But step inside and visitors are confronted by a giant 7x5ft screen and six seats, ready for a day of watching films, television or listening to music.

For eccentric carpenter Jim Banner, his Romany theatre is a reflection of his love of illusion – and a need to get round British planning laws.

The caravan was made from scratch by 79-year-old Mr Banner just before he left New Zealand to move to Norfolk – the home of his in-laws.

He said the wooden panelling was carved out of a 700-year-old totara tree which died and needed to be felled.

When moving day came seven months ago, it was broken down into a number of pieces and shipped over, ready to be recreated at the back of their Thursford home.

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'The reason this is here is basically because you have such funny, crazy planning laws,' he said.

'All I see here is lots of beautiful cars, parked on the road because you can't even build garages.

'I thought, 'I can't build a permanent little theatre here, how can I get over it?' So I did one on wheels so I can move it anywhere I want – it was a clever way of getting over the restrictions.'

It is not the first time Mr Banner has let his imagination run free while he was building – in fact in New Zealand he was known for it.

Banner's Dairy, on the edge of the highway at Thames, was a fairytale castle created around the shell of a run-down and 'boring' oblong building.

Mr Banner said he transformed it all in one day, adding: 'We used to sell so many cakes and pies and ice creams. How it looked before, it wouldn't have had more than three people through the doors.'

He also created a theatre in his back garden in New Zealand which became a popular attraction for Australian tourists.

For Mr Banner, who first moved to New Zealand at the age of 23 after completing an apprenticeship in joinery in Kent, it is all about one thing: 'magic'.

He is always striving to break from the norm and sees creating an illusion as the perfect way to escape.

The father-of-three said the Romany caravan was the perfect shell for his mobile cinema, which he will happily escape to for an entire day to watch television and listen to music away from the real world.

'The real gipsy was living a life of freedom. They didn't want to conform,' he said.

But with plans to move back to New Zealand, having got fed up with British weather already, Mr Banner will have to give up his cleverly-hidden theatre and is looking for a buyer.

He said he hoped whoever took it off his hands would make the most of its magical qualities.

Anyone interested in the Romany caravan theatre should contact Mr Banner on 01328 822489.