• A Few Random Photos From 2022.

    Wherever I go I take photos.

    A lot of photos.

    Occasionally I’ll find a building and think it looks amazing and has a great history. Only it turns out it can probably be written about in just two lines.

    Sometimes they may end up as part of a blog, sometimes I’ll drop them in as a Wordless Wednesday.

    There’s many more that just stay in my photo section on my phone.

    I present today, several of those photos and some that didn’t fit in with anything else.

    In the case of some of these pictures, I originally took the photos to use as the basis of a blog but couldn’t find any history or old photos of the places.

    In the case of the Fish and Coal building, I knew there was a history to it but could not find much more about the building than “It’s been derelict for quite some time”.

    I do hope that I can get back to King’s Cross at some point this year as I do have plenty more places that I would like to visit.

    Here’s some of those photos that I took in 2022 that never really developed further and a couple that became part of something else.

    Billy Fury statue, Liverpool Docks. it was a very rainy day.
    The amazing glass dome inside Le Printemps Haussmann, Paris.
    Crown and Mitre Hotel in Carlisle. The Beatles were once kicked out for being too scruffy.
    Hamburg Station.
    The Gas Holders at Kings Cross. These used to be on the other side of the canal when they were still in use. They’ve been moved and now have apartments in them.
    Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. Still looking the same as it has for many years.
    St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Kings Cross, London.
    The Winter Gardens, Sheffield.
    A Mara at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. I just wanted to hug it!
    The view from the bedroom window of our apartment we rented while staying in Chester. It rained the whole weekend.
    Sleeping angel, Highgate Cemetery, London.
    Naval Uniforms in The Maritime Museum, Hamburg.
    House of Terror, Budapest, Hungary.
    Sculpture by Tschabalala Self, King’s Cross, London.
    Bob Marley statue, Liverpool. It was fairly dark and the street lighting didn’t help much.
    Encased inside the cladding here is the one time Don Cinema, Sheffield. Parts of the original cinema building are still visible. The cinema closed in 1957.
    A statue of a chicken. Maastricht, Holland.
    Statue of Mahatma Ghandi, Bloomsbury, London.
    The July Column in Paris.
    Part of the art installation Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red by artist Paul Cummins which was originally at the Tower Of London. Imperial War Museum, Manchester.
    The K1 robot from Doctor Who. On display at the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder Exhibition at The World Museum, Liverpool.
    Fish and Coal office, king’s Cross, London. This was derelict since the 90’s, it’s now a restaurant.
    St Pancras Station.
    A full English Breakfast in Germany. Hamburg.
    Life Sized Spider-Man I encountered at C and A in Antwerp.
    Outside BBC Manchester.
    I hate going to museums and finding things that I had as a kid. Though the two figures on the left are barely 7 years old. Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham.
    Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
    I took a lot of photos of Hamburg station, this one from the window of our hotel.
    A cat I met on the way to work one morning. They let me take a couple of photos but was not interested in being stroked.
    Cardiff Station. We’d been to record a television quiz show. We didn’t win.
    The old Capitol Theatre in Scarborough. A Bingo hall since 1977.
    The tiny airport at Maastricht.
    The Palace Cinema in Maastricht. Only the rear entrance remains.

    Those are some oddments then.

    I’m always left with some photos that have nowhere else to go so I may make another of these posts in a few months time.

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  • Yet Another 10 Strange Photos From History.

    I’ve mentioned it before but I have seen many, many weird and fascinating things on the internet over the years.

    Some of the photos I’ve chosen this time are some that piqued my interest or I found interestinh or even just downright odd.

    5mb of Memory being loaded onto a Pan Am Airline in 1956.

    To put this into some sort of context, the standard smartphone these days comes with 64 GB of memory. The amount of memory in this photo isn’t even enough to store a single photo taken on a modern smartphone which is around 26 mb.

    It’s Adam West as Batman riding a baby Elephant! This was taken during the filming of the Batman TV show.

    Salvador Dali with an anteater in Paris.

    I’ve seen some sites stating that Dali did not actually own the Anteater and thinking about it, it would be an difficult animal to look after at home.

    It’s also mentioned on several websites that this photo is entirely posed and the Anteater was rented from the Paris zoo.

    Who cares, it’s a great picture.

    During the great floods of Paris in 1924 walkways were build to help Parisians get from one place to another.

    In the evening of 10th March 1987, during a test run, a Dockland Light Railway train failed to stop.

    It crashed through the buffers and fence, and was left hanging precariously 20ft above Saunders Ness Road.

    This issue was sorted out before the Dockland Light Railway started taking passengers.

    The stop in the photo at Island Gardens is no longer the end of the line, the Docklands Light Railway now goes under the river at this point and continues through Greenwich and ends up in Lewisham.

    Marilyn Monroe entertains the troops in Korea in 1954.

    Monroe interrupted her honeymoon with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio to perform for the American troops. Over the course of four days, Monroe took a whirlwind tour of American military bases, putting on 10 shows for an estimated 100,000 very excited servicemen.

    When asked about the tour Monroe said ‘[It] was the best thing that ever happened to me. I never felt like a star before in my heart. It was so wonderful to look down and see a fellow smiling at me’.

    Crowds to see the Beatles arrive at their hotel in Adelaide, Australia in 1964. An estimated 350,000 people flocked to the city to catch a glimpse of them.

    This would be the only time the Beatles visited Australia.

    Set of dentures that belonged to Winston Churchill.

    The teeth were made around the start of the Second World War when Churchill was around 65 years old.

    These dentures sold at auction in 2010 for £15,200.

    Men and boys swarm over the wreckage of a train at Buckeye Park in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1896.

    The train wreck was actually set up and the trains crashed together just for audience. Promoters of the event said the train wreck would “satisfy the curiosity of persons who read of train wrecks and yet have never seen one.”

    Described by a local reporter as ”Quicker than thought there was a crash, a fearful moan, the ‘hissing, and screeching of escaping steam, the rattle and bang of falling iron and steel, flying pieces, of debris, a last terrible sigh of the dying iron steeds, a settling of the mass of ruins and’ all was over.”

    Most parts of the wreckage were taken by spectators as souvenirs.

    Louis Armstrong plays the trumpet to his wife in Giza, 1961.

    The full story of this photograph can be found here: Louis Armstrong In Africa.

    So that was 10 more fascinating historical photos.

    There’s absolutely no doubt I will post more at some point.

  • The Lost Cinemas of Chester-Le-Street.

    I paid a quick trip to Chester-Le-Street in County Durham last weekend.

    It’s an unusual hobby I know but whenever I visit a place I have never been before I try to find out how many cinemas any town I visit has and the age of them.

    I was pleased to find out the Chester-Le-Street had five cinemas.

    Once.

    Unfortunately 80% of those cinema buildings are no longer there, 100% of them were no longer showing movies.

    Of the five cinemas once in the town there is only the exterior of one remaining.

    So let’s take a quick look at what was once there and what still is.

    For such a small town it did surprise me that there was once five busy cinemas, some of which were operating at around the same time.

    Pre television days of course the cinema was the one of the few ways of finding entertainment and it was seen as night out much like going to the Theatre. People would dress up and make a night out of it.

    Cinema was also a great way for keeping up with the news of the day from the Pathé newsreels.

    With there being several cinemas in such a small town as Chester-Le-Hope there must have been some competition between them. The distance between all these cinemas is so close that I would imagine that if there was no room in one people could easily just walk to the next one.

    Let’s start with the cinemas that are no longer there.

    Palace Cinema, Low Chare.

    The Palace cinema opened on 22nd December 1919.

    Closure came in 1960 when the building was flattened.

    Since then it has been used as a car showroom and, now, a car park.

    Palace Cinema
    Site of the Palace cinema today.

    Essoldo Cinema.

    Originally built for the Chester-le-Street Theatre Co in 1911 and called the Empire, it was remodelled in 1928 to also contain a ballroom.

    In 1946 the building was taken over by the Essoldo cinema company and renamed as the Essoldo.

    The Essoldo cinema closed in 1971 but the ballroom continued to operate until a year later when the the Classic Chain took over the cinema.

    Classic eventually shut down both the cinema and ballroom and, in 1972, the building was demolished.

    The Essoldo Cinema
    Site of the Essoldo today.

    The Queens Hall Cinema.

    On the 13th May 1931 the Queen’s Hall Cinema opened on S Burns Street. It was built on the site of a former brewery.

    In 1958 the cinema was acquired by the Essoldo Chain. It must have been confusing having several cinemas called the Essoldo in such a small town.

    The cinema was converted to a Bingo hall in 1967 which it stayed as until a fire in 1994 gutted the building.

    It was then demolished shortly after.

    I can’t find any photos of the cinema but I have found the below photo of the building as a Bingo hall.

    Site of the Queens Hall Cinema today.

    The Savoy Cinema.

    The Savoy Cinema was located at 52 Front Street. Opened on the 14th March 1921 and showed movies for several years.

    In 1946 the Essoldo Chain bought the cinema and The Savoy closed in 1960 when it was eventually demolished.

    The Savoy Cinema. These people are not crowding outside to get in to see the films showing (which at the time were ‘The Unholy Three’ (starring Lon Chaney) and ‘The Richest Man in the World’(With Louis Mann and Robert Montgomery).

    It was because of the annual Shrove Tuesday football event, an annual event in which the whole town played a game of football.

    The site of the Savoy Cinema today.

    Of the five cinemas that once stood in the town of Chester-Le-Street only one remained.

    In order to locate it, I passed through an almost empty empty shopping centre, up around the back of the Wilkinsons and there it was.

    I had found the one remaining cinema building in this small town in County Durham.

    This was once the President 3 & 4.

    Why 3 & 4? Well President 1 & 2 was located in nearby Houghton-le-Spring. I don’t know why they didn’t just call it the President 2, it would have been easier.

    Or Essoldo to make it match all the other cinemas in town maybe?

    Anyhoo, the President 3 & 4 opened on 12th October 1980 so, at the time, was the only cinema in Chester-Le-Street.

    Trouble was the cinema was running at a loss for most of it’s lifetime and closed in 1984, just four years after opening, amid rumours of it being converted into a snooker hall.

    It surprised everyone in the town when screen 3 reopened in April 1985 when admission was just 75p for children and £1.50 for adults (that’s probably about a fiver today allowing for inflation).

    This lasted for about a year before the whole place closed down for a second and final time and screen 4 was converted into the Snooker club that everyone was expecting.

    The rest of the building eventually became a car saleroom which it remains to this day.

    Looking at the shape of the building it was easy to work out how it once looked. There were two screens here and were sat side by side. The above picture I would place as the screen end.

    Chester-Le-Street is a beautiful town to visit and I would highly recommend it.

    Unless you are looking for cinemas there.

    There are none.

  • Wordless Wednesday.

  • A Quick Trip to the Bowes Museum.

    On a beautiful sunny Saturday in January we drove the 100 or so miles to Bernard Castle to visit the Bowes Museum.

    I wanted to go to see the exhibition of the works of one of my favorite artists and writers Raymond Briggs.

    The exhibition has lots of Brigg’s original artwork from books that have become common place these days. Books like The Snowman, Father Christmas and When the Wind Blows are all showcased here.

    I did get a bit tearful looking at the original artwork for the book Ethel and Ernest, if you’ve read the book you will probably understand why.

    There was a sign at the door of the exhibition that said “No Photography” so I didn’t take any photos. The one below is taken from the internet.

    The Bowes Museum is a purpose built art gallery in the town of Barnard Castle, in County Durham.

    Construction started on the building in 1869 but it wasn’t until 1892 when the museum opened.

    It really is a stunning building and looked amazing in the bright winter sun.

    The sun shone bright but the pond was frozen as it was quite a chilly day.

    The Silver Swan is one of the museums most visited pieces. Originally created in 1774 the Swan moves and appears to catch a fish.

    Made from silver and glass it’s a wonderful creation.

    At the moment the Silver Swan is in need of restoration but there is a video showing on a big screen of how incredibly graceful the Swan’s movements are.

    If you ever find yourself in County Durham the Museum is definitely a place you need to see.

    Entry for adults is £17.50 and well worth the entry fee which goes toward the upkeep of the museum.

  • The Arts Tower, Sheffield.

    I walk to work every day and part of my route takes me past this impressive building in Sheffield.

    At one time it was the tallest building in Sheffield until it was surpassed by St Paul’s Tower in 2009.

    Work started on the building in 1961 and continued for four years.

    The building is 20 storeys high with a two lecture halls below ground level.

    On the right of the photo above is the back of the Scala Cinema which, at the time of the above photo, was derelict and had been since the mid 1950’s.

    The Scala was demolished in 1964 when the University expanded.

    The row of houses on the left have also gone too and the plot is now the car park for the Arts Tower.

    Scala Cinema on the right.

    The original use of the Arts Tower was to house all 18 of the University’s arts departments, which had far fewer students in the 1960s than they do now.

    Nearing completion. Rear of Scala Cinema to the right.

    The following few photographs were taken during the “Topping Off” ceremony by Mitchell Construction , the civil engineering firm who built the Arts Tower.

    These pictures are absolutely brilliant in illustrating how construction work was done in the 60’s, no hard hats, no protective footwear and no safety harnesses.

    Look at them all crowded on that roof and standing on slats! Even looking at this photo sets off my vertigo.
    The guy reading the newspaper looks a little odd these days. I guess he’s the 1960 equivalent of someone checking their phone.
    June 1966.

    The building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in June 1966.

    It seems weird to think that I walk along the same piece of pavement each day where the above photo was taken.

    The same spot where the Queen Mother stood taken January 2023.

    Inside the Arts Tower there are two regular lifts but there is also a Paternoster lift.

    It’s a constantly moving lift that you just step in and step out of as illustrated below.

    There are only three working Paternoster lifts left in the UK, one of those being the one in the Arts Tower.

    Around the base of the Arts Tower is this rather odd wood grained cement wall.

    Not sure if it’s meant to create the illusion that the wall is made of wood but it’s quite obviously concrete.

    There was originally a bridge leading across a pool in order to access the building which probably looked great.

    Thing is though, there are some strong winds that blow along the side of the building. Sheffield is a very windy place at the best of times but the shape of the Arts Tower does seem to create a bit of a wind tunnel.

    For the pool located outside the building, on very windy days the wind would whip the water in the pool all dispense it over passers by.

    I’ve experienced the wind here on many occasions and it is responsible for destroying at least one umbrella.

    Maybe two.

    The pool was eventually drained and covered over, no trace of it remains today.

    I’ve included below some photos I took on the way to work on the 16th of January 2023 and then a couple on the way home.

    In 2009 the building had a major refurbishment with the interior being upgraded and rearranged.

    The work was finished in time for the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year and the building is still used for teaching.

    The top nine floors are now allocated to the University’s School of Architecture and Departments of Landscape.

    It may well be a monolith of Steel, Glass and cement but I think this building is probably one of Sheffield’s most iconic structures and can be seen from miles away.

  • Hunting History But Not Finding Much. Volume 1. The Pagoda Bank.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I find a place that looks interesting and might possibly have a great history.

    So I take photos, prepare a page on WordPress then get to work trying to find out the history of the building.

    I took some photos of this building back in November and could find very little about it. Since November I have been intermittently checking for any new information but have not found anything.

    I drew a blank. Nothing. Nada. The Big Goose Egg!

    Any information I have found is very minimal, but let me share what I have.

    The Pagoda Bank started life as a Barclays Bank.

    Sometime in the 50’s the frontage was shrunken down, you can still see the scars on the building where the front section was removed.

    The Bank Building once the frontage had been slimmed down is above.

    The shops to the right of the photo are long gone since some time in the 80’s to make way for the large Waitrose store that now occupies the space.

    At some point the building became a Thai Restaurant which may be where the doors that adorn the front came from.

    Remains of a night deposit box.

    I can’t find the year the bank ceased trading, I have no idea when the Thai restaurant was here and I haven’t a clue when the Chinese Fireworks Company or the escape room moved in.

    At the top of the building it’s easy to see where the Barclays Bank signage once was.

    I also have no idea why it was ever called the Pagoda Bank.

    It looks nothing like one.

    I do get the feeling that people seem to think the building is derelict. That might answer why there is so much graffiti covering it.

    Marks showing where the front of the building was removed.

    There is an escape room at the top of the building that is very much still operating despite how derelict the building looks.

    The Fireworks shop is still open but seems to make most of it’s sales online. I have never seen the shop itself actually open.

    Looking at their website though they do seem to open a few times a year, like around Bonfire Night or New Years.

    So there you go then.

    A building that I thought would have a long and interesting history but all I can find online is one page on a Sheffield history online forum.

    I’m sure, and I hope, that there is someone that can offer me more of a history of this building. If I ever do find out more I’ll create a new post.

    Until then we can just admire a rather odd shaped building at the top end of London Road in Sheffield.

  • Wordless Wednesday.

  • A Couple of Long Walks Around Paris in Chilly December.

    We visited Paris in December just before Christmas for a few days. We’d left Sheffield still covered in snow and was expecting the same when we got to London to change to the Eurostar.

    On arrival in London we were greeted with blue skies and bright sunlight with not a single snowflake on the ground.

    The same when we arrived in Paris. It was, however cold, really cold. I don’t normally complain about the cold weather but this time I was wrapped up and still felt the chill.

    Whenever I visit any country I’m always fascinated with the architecture. Always similar but very different throughout the world.

    The architecture of Paris has always seemed so beautiful to and well laid out. Unlike in London where I grew up where street came about while avoiding streets that were already in place or avoiding plague pits and UXB’s.

    The streets of Paris all came about at the same time so the perfect grid system is all part of the design.

    The following photos were taken on different days and different walks in December 2022.

    Georges-Eugène Haussmann, was responsible for redesigning the city of Paris in the 19th Century. Taking an old medieval city that was considered to be a dirty, overcrowded unsanitary city to the well ordered streets that we see today.

    A lot of buildings in the area where we was staying were part of the original Haussmann renovation of Paris from 1853-1867.

    On the corner of rue de Laborde and Haussmann Boulevard is a statue of Georges-Eugène Haussmann holding his designs under his arm.

    You can read about Haussmann’s redesigning of the city here.

    This building confused me. There were once windows but they were bricked up. Then other windows were added.

    The George V hotel. Did I mention The Beatles stayed here?

    A fine example of a Haussmann apartment building.

    One thing I love about Paris is the perfectly straight lines and angles all the streets seem to have to them.

    I loved this building with the clock built into its marble frontage. The cyclist went past at just the right time.

    The Church of Saint Augustin is a beautiful church that was just outside our hotel window.

    This photo was taken from the balcony of our hotel room.

    How can anyone not love the art Nouveau cast iron plants that adorn the outside of Paris Metro Stations? They look like some sort of 1950’s Sci-Fi description of an alien.

    Au Printemps is one of the most beautiful department stores in the world. If you ever get a chance to visit make sure you go to the rooftop café. You’ll get a view straight over to the Eiffel Tower.

    We’ll not talk about the poor focus here but the view is one that needs to be seen.

    Le Grand Rex a rather wonderful Parisienne cinema and concert venue.

    Chez Moune is a “Cabaret Feminin”. I’ve no idea what that entails but look at that frontage though!

    Standing outside a Montmartre vintage shop.

    I have no idea what this building is but isn’t it wonderful?

    I took a walk to the Parc Monceau as I’d read online there was a pyramid here. The entrance was incredibly grand.

    In the park I found this monument to Frédéric Chopin who came to live in Paris in 1930. The lady on the right of the monument does not seem impressed with Chopin’s piano playing.

    I did find the pyramid, or La Pyramide.

    In 1773 louis Carrogis Dit Carmontelle was commissioned to create a garden here “bringing together all times and all places”. So in the park there is a waterfall, a Dutch windmill, a white marble temple, an Obelisk, a Minaret and an Egyptian Pyramid.

    I found the waterfall (quite small), the Obelisk (just to the left of the below photo). Did not find the windmill though. Or Marble Temple for that matter.

    The Paris Museum of Asian Art.

    Those gates again but from the other entrance.

    This building was directly opposite our hotel, this is The Cercle National Des Armees.

    This restaurant wasn’t open but I did love the Dragons outside.

    Jeff Koon’s sculpture Bouquet Of Tulips in the gardens of the Champs Élysées. This sculpture honours the memory of victims of the Paris terror attacks in 2015 and 2016.

    One of the two hotels that we stayed in during our trip to Paris was the Hotel Du Brabant. A wonderfully old hotel with lots of history. Also, paper thin walls so we were awake most of the night due to the loud Italian family in the room next to us. That’s my suitcase by the way.

    It was a very chilly few days in Paris, but it’s an amazing city to visit.

    Hopefully next time I visit it will be bit warmer.

  • Scala, London.

    Just around the corner from The London Lighthouse and just down the road from King’s Cross Station is the Scala. A nightclub with a long history that has always been fascinating to me as a cinephile.

    Originally opened as the Kings Cross Cinema in 1920, construction was delayed for a few years by the start of the First World War.

    In it’s unfinished state during the First World War the building was used to manufacture aircraft parts.

    When the war ended it was then turned into a labour exchange to find work for demobbed soldiers returning home from the front.

    The cinema finally opened in 1920.

    King’s Cross Cinema closed in 1949 to repair damage caused by bombing of the area during the World War II.

    It was around this time the building was extensively altered, the auditorium was given a Streamline-Moderne look, but the exterior and foyer areas remained mostly untouched.

    In 1952 the cinema again changed ownership and became The Gaumont cinema changing it’s name and ownership again to Odeon in 1962.

    A short lived venture in 1972 saw the cinema taken over by the Cinecenta group and reopening as Cine Club and showing uncensored adult films from the 22nd February.

    This was only for a few months though as Cinecenta changed the name of the cinema back to The King’s Cross Cinema and reverted to showing regular, certified, films from the 22nd July the same year.

    During the mid 1970’s concerts were also performed at The King’s Cross Cinema.

    In 1972 Iggy Pop played his only UK show here. Iggy and his band The Stooges, were in England at the time recording the album Raw Power. Photographer Mick Rock was in attendance on the night and photographed the band.

    One of Rock’s shots was used as the front cover of Raw Power.

    Lou Reed was also photographed by Mick Rock later that year. One of those photographs was later modified for the cover of Reed’s Transformer.

    There is now a plaque on the side of the Scala now commemorating these concerts.

    The cinema closed again in 1975 and stood unused for 5 years.

    During the late 1970’s the building opened as the Primatarium. This was opened by Cyril Rosen the founder of the International Primate Protection League (IPPL-UK) who financed the project himself in order to raise awareness about primates.

    It was a cinema experience that included the auditorium covered in leaves with a waterfall along one side while the sounds of a rainforest were played from the cinema speakers. The screen would show a movie about the evolution, lives and preservation of primates.

    This project lasted 18 months before closing in 1980.

    It was also around this time that the former upper seating area became converted into a snooker hall called the Hurricane room which has stayed in business to this day.

    Around 1982

    I originally assumed that the Scala in King’s Cross was the location for the live sequences in A Hard Day’s Night so was going to include this in one of my Beatles posts.

    I was incorrect.

    Whilst it is well documented that the live performance scenes for A Hard Day’s Night were filmed at the Scala, this is actually a different Scala. The Scala that the Beatles visited is just off Tottenham Court Road just around 2 miles from Kings Cross.

    The original Scala just off Tottenham Court Road. It located on the corner Tottenham Street and Charlotte Street.

    The Tottenham Street Scala was destroyed in a fire in 1969 and subsequently demolished and replaced with an office block.

    In the basement of that office block a cinema opened in 1976 called The Other Cinema it showed avant-garde films and closed in February 1977.

    The basement cinema reopened as Scala Cinema in June 1978. It showed a daily programme of films of avant-garde and cult.

    In 1980, the Scala House was taken over by Channel 4 television, so in 1981 the former Odeon King’s Cross building in Pentonville Road, King’s Cross was renamed as The Scala Cinema and the cinema club from Tottenham Street moved in.

    A regular feature of the Scala Cinema club was the all night programmes where they would show films starting Saturday afternoon and finishing in the early hours of Sunday morning. There was also regular horror film marathon nights that were called “Shock Around The Clock”.

    Movie programme from September 1983. What would you like to watch?
    The lobby 1986
    The lobby 2018. The floor remains the same as does the light fitting from the ceiling.

    The programme for Shock Around The Clock on the 1st of August 1987 is below, the movies shown started with Return To Salem’s Lot in the afternoon the continued right through the day and night with a surprise feature, American Gothic, Hellraiser, The Stepfather, Street Trash, another surprise feature, Witchboard, The Lamp and finishing with another surprise feature.

    Surprise features were a thing with the Scala film club, I would love to go to a cinema and get a surprise movie now. It was probably down to if they could source prints for certain movies, if they put surprise movie in the programme and their first choice didn’t turn up they could have a back up in place.

    One particular surprise movie ended up being one of the last shown at the Scala. In 1992 a surprise feature turned out to be Stanley Kubricks A Clockwork Orange which at the time was banned in England on the orders of Kubrick himself.

    I remember seeing this advertised in the NME, while there was no mention of which movie they would be showing it was kind of an open secret for anyone in the know of London’s cinemas.

    This resulted in a court case that ended in favour of Kubrick. The Scala paid out a large settlement.

    This was the final nail in the coffin for the Scala who were already facing rising rent, an end of tenancy which included a compulsory purchase order and had a rather expensive leak in the roofing that needed fixing.

    All of this was too much for the Scala to cope with and ended up going into receivership in 1993.

    Director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos John Waters has been quoted as saying – “The Scala had magic. It was like joining a club – a very secret club, like a biker gang or something … they could show films uncut because they had memberships, well that’s insane! It’s like they were a country club for criminals and lunatics and people that were high … which is a good way to see movies.”

    Batman Begins, Memento and The Prestige director Christopher Nolan was a regular at the Scala. He even still carries his membership card in his wallet.

    The Scala lay derelict for a few years before having much of the seating removed and being converted into a nightclub opening in 1999 which it remains to this day.

    In recent years the exterior of the Scala has received a facelift and the exterior has been extensively cleaned.

    If you are interested in the story of The Scala Cinema club there was a Kickstarter to raise money to make a documentary about it. This has reached full backing and is now in production, I look forward to seeing this.

    You can find the Kickstarter page for the movie here.

    I think if I’d have been a bit older I would have been a regular at the Scala’s all night movie marathons. There are plenty of reparatory cinemas in the country and I have been to several but the Scala sounds like it must have been movie heaven.