P is for Picture House
Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds
This independent cinema is 100 years old this year and has seen huge changes over that period; sound, colour, non-smoking, digital. Although it has been refurbished, it still sports the old gas lights and a tour of the building revealed vintage telephones and Victorian sinks. It is one of the few independent cinemas in the area, which means that it shows some really good films rather than the commercial blockbusters
Our writing group had the opportunity of a tour of the building and we produced some pieces inspired by what we saw and learnt. We were shown two short films, one of which was Conversation Piece http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYsdGqPfhW8
Here is a piece I wrote based on this cinema about two cleaners in the late 40s/early 50s:
The Picture House
Armed with a bucket and damp cloth, Doris shuffled her big frame along the row, emptying the overflowing ashtrays then giving them a quick wipe. She could hear coughing coming from above which was Violet tackling the same job upstairs.
“Alright, love? She shouted up to the balcony, noting not for the first time the decorative flowers and foliage which festooned it.
“I’m knee deep in ice cream tubs and fag ends here,” came the reply.
Doris looked at the big, square clock with its enormous numbers on the wall. She’d better get a move on. The plush, red velvet curtains didn’t look so glamorous in the harsh lighting. Years of smoke had taken their toll on them and on the ceiling with its fancy plaster flowers. When she was first courting Billy, she thought the Hyde Park Picture House was the most romantic place in the world. On a Saturday night, they would meet outside under the elegant lamp. Bill would buy two tickets for the stalls at the kiosk and the uniformed usherette would find them seats near the back, the beam of her torch picking out other couples with the intention of a bit of hanky panky in the dark. She couldn’t eat a Fry’s chocolate cream without thinking back to those times.
“Find anything?” Violet shouted down, putting an end to her daydreaming.
“Only a ha’penny and a woollen glove. What about you?”
“Nothing to write home about; a couple of buttons and a boiled sweet.”
Sometimes there were rich pickings to be had; a sixpence, a pair of leather gloves and a silver ring had been left behind. Finders, keepers was their motto; the benefit of doing the dirty tasks, that and the complimentary tickets they received. Not that she and Billy still went to the pictures together. He worked late shifts at the foundry and the house was full of children. She wondered if her Susan would soon be courting on the back row. She looked at the clock again. Almost time to get back to the real world and collect the younger ones from school.