Fast Forward

The last video rental store in Ayr

by David Milloy

There was a time when Ayr, like most other towns, was home to a plethora of shops, large and small, from which videos could be rented.

But that was then, and today there is but one video rental shop left in the town: Fast Forward, which has operated from the same Smith Street premises since it first opened its doors in 1987.

It’s now the subject of a short documentary film by Andrea Costa, who came from his native Italy to Ayr in 2019 to study Filmmaking & Screenwriting at the University of the West of Scotland. Having been introduced to Fast Forward by his girlfriend, Mathilde van Ooijen, Andrea realised that it would make an excellent subject for a film.

So, having secured the agreement of Fast Forward’s owner, Andrea and producer Federica Massini set about the task of making the film. Pre-production, which mostly involved carrying out research and sourcing archive material, took place at the end of 2022. Filming took place in January of this year, and the film was released on YouTube on the 14th of April.

As you’d expect from someone with filmmaking in his blood (one of his uncles is a filmmaker), Andrea’s film is a beautifully shot paean to both Fast Forward and the man who started it as a teenager and who has run every aspect of it for 36 years, Colin Sloan.

Fast Forward’s story began when Colin, then aged 19, realised that the takeover of his employers would result in the demise of his job as a seed analyst. He therefore decided to set up in business on his own. As he explains, “My family have been in the retail business for many years, and as video rental was huge in the late 1980s, setting up a video store seemed like a sound business proposition.”

It was most certainly that, with video rental stores continuing to thrive into the 21st century. But just as the advent of the domestic video cassette player enabled people to watch their favourite films at home instead of at the cinema, online streaming and video-on-demand services, coupled with the introduction of smartphones and tablets capable of playing streamed or downloaded films, brought about further change. No longer did people need to physically go and rent a copy of a film or even watch it at home; they could access it pretty much anywhere. The result was the gradual disappearance of video rental stores.

Colin’s store is one of the few that remain. He attributes its longevity to low overheads – he bought the shop premises in 1990 and is the business’s sole employee – and his decision to diversify into comic books and film/TV merchandise several years ago.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the cost of renting a film from Fast Forward – a two-night video rental cost a competitive £2 in 1987 and still costs that amount today. If value for money is one constant about Fast Forward, Colin’s work ethic is another: since 1987, he’s been behind the counter at Fast Forward seven days a week from 10.00am to 8.00pm – an impressively long shift, and one that’s seen many a customer become a friend.

Colin is delighted with Andrea’s film, which he sees as a way of leaving something for posterity, a memento of one of the last survivors of a once-burgeoning sector.

Both Colin and Andrea, who has now graduated from UWS, will continue to ply their respective trades in Ayr for a while to come. So if you’re looking to buy or rent a film, or if you’re looking for someone to make one for you, you know who to call.

Fast Forward: 36 Smith Street, Ayr. Tel: 07803 792666
Andrea Costa, filmmaker and photographer: Tel: 07828 118752
View Andrea’s documentary about Fast Forward: