It might seem that clubs and cinemas are completely different, even competing, places of entertainment. In my view, they are complementary and I will describe a few ways of how they can come together for the benefit of local communities.
The first example is the recent screening of Peter Nestler’s film about the former Dial House Club in Sheffield at the Showroom Cinema, in Sheffield itself. I was very honoured to introduce this film and, as the director could not attend the screening in person, I ran the question and answer session afterwards.
The audience mainly consisted of club people, some of them old in years but very young at heart. Many hadn’t stepped foot inside a cinema for quite a few years and hadn’t been to the Showroom before. Statistics do show that older people are less likely to go to cinemas, younger people more likely- and we know that the opposite is the case when it comes to clubs!
Why did they come along then? They were clearly drawn to the screening about a club they once knew and cherished. A Working Men’s Club in Sheffield, made in 1965, is something of a time capsule. It captures club life in those halcyon days as well as the wider context of working class life across the city. (The film is documented on this site.) It’s a wonderfully artistic film about a club that, since its formation in 1939, was extremely popular till its sudden closure in 2005. Entertainers enjoyed performing there to a packed concert room.
The Showroom Cinema, by screening this film in collaboration with the Goethe- Institut, London, was able to offer to those who knew the club another chance to relive the good old days, and to share their memories.
People came along who were actually in the film, such as Rosa Allender who can be seen in a street scene stroking a cat (apparently it was deaf!). Other audience members spotted people they knew and identified some of the performers such as the wonderful tenor Tony White.
It was a lovely, warm event with the film bringing back to the club-goers of Sheffield something of their own past and providing them with an opportunity to relive some great times and personal stories.
The second example I want to mention is a project called ‘A Small Cinema’, which is currently setting up a new, permanent 70-seater cinema in Moston, Manchester. The initial funding of £10,000 from Manchester City Council has been supplemented by the support of volunteers and local residents. In good ‘Big Society’ fashion (which has been around for a lot longer than the present Government), they got stuck in by doing a whole range of jobs from sourcing cost-price timber to repainting old cinema seats.
‘The camaraderie is fantastic,’ said Sam Meech of ‘A Small Cinema’ who has helped to create pop-up cinemas in the past. The cinema is being formed out of a former working men’s club that perhaps might otherwise have been knocked down. It’s a great way to use the space and could set a trend!
Many clubs have excess space these days that they can’t afford to heat and light- a pop up cinema could bring film back to local people and away from those bland, pop corn crunching, US style multiplexes. They are often out of town and costly as we know.
In the past, local cinemas were everywhere as were clubs. Older people talk of how they might watch 2 films a day for a few shillings and cinemas were within walking distance from their homes.
It seems to me that putting the clubs and the cinema experience together is a very sensible idea indeed!
For more information:-
The Showroom Cinema, Sheffield: www.showroomworkstation.org.uk
The Goethe- Institut, London- www.goethe.de/london
The Small Cinema project – www.asmallcinema.co.uk
Images from the event featuring Ruth Cherrington and and Maren Hobein from the Goethe Institut London.
Acknowledgements to photographer Karl Lang
Forthcoming film season- Labour and Activism, at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield. For full details go to : http://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/labourandactivism
©2008/14 - Club Historians