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South Bank Community Cinema Festival

Posted on 03 October 2012 | Audio, Narrative

What a fabulous day we had at the South Bank Community Cinema York 800 day.

Many fascinating York stories were captured in recordings that I would urge anybody to listen to; from the story of how City Screen grew from the small “art house” film venue at Tempest Anderson Hall in the Museum gardens to the central hub of York that it is today; to the story of local filmmaker Kim Hopkins who’s own York Story about the recent history of Gray’s Court is set to storm international film festivals. Some stories were also captured in conversation and I will try to recall them here.

Charmian, the first secretary of the South Bank Community Cinema, now lives in Northallerton but returned for the special York 800 day as she still has close links with the SBCC and York itself. When the new Clement’s Hall was nearing completion she had just recently moved to York and joined the Clement’s Hall committee as a way of getting to know people in York.

They found that there was a willing group of volunteers to help run a community cinema and in the last two years it has grown into something with almost 200 members. More importantly to Charmian though is the sense of community spirit; she has made good friends here and she believes the group thrives due to the sociable layout of the cinema – people sit around tables and enjoy the bar at an interval rather than the conventional rows of seats found in most cinemas.

The group have also added to the Hall itself, for example purchasing some heavy curtains which help to give a better sound quality. Since moving away from the area she has been looking for comparable community cinemas closer to her and she admits that in the last couple of years she has seen many films that she wouldn’t have otherwise gone to see. However, whenever she tries to recommend films to her children it appears to make them even less likely to want to see them!

While numbers attending this day were modest, everybody appeared to enjoy themselves. George and his Mum recreated a fight scene to the accompaniment of the York Street Band outside while inside Danny enjoyed the cinema almost entirely to himself as he watched the original Willy Wonka film. At 4 years old he sounded like a seasoned cinema-goer, though Dad admitted that there had been a few tricky experiences when he had found films just a little too scary. Definitely a film critic in the making.

A lengthy recording was made of an interview with Beryl Long, whose memories of cinema in York are astonishing. After the interview she kept rushing outside to tell me more bits of stories that she had just recalled. Along with the long list of York cinemas that she mentions in the interview there was also a screen at Strensall Barracks and she said that the local villagers would go to see films there. Her regular venue was the Rialto and she recalls that there had been a roller skating rink there and a ballroom as well as the cinema.

She told me her Mother was a very keen dancer and had a lovely pair of white roller skates. However in 1935 there was a fire at the Rialto and the roller rink burned down. Beryl was born shorty after this and she claims that it was probably due to her Mum not having a roller rink to go to anymore! Listen to her interview for more comprehensive memories.

Richard Kay

You can listen to audio stories gathered at the South Bank Community Cinema Festival by browsing the playlist below.  Click on the orange button to play or pause each file.