Lately I seem to be living in the past, last week it was a tour of long-gone pubs and today it is closed down cinemas. Unlike the boozers tour I was able to take some refreshment with the picture houses trip as I did it from home with a glass of single malt to accompany me.
The idea of the interactive tour is that you download the commentary and listen to it as you walk round the city seeing how it was in years gone by vis-à-vis its fleapits, but, as I have been in most of them anyway, I just needed to dredge the old memory bank. The commentary is narrated by Leeds author S J Bradley, with specially composed new music by Faded Auditoria.
The tour begins in City Square at the News Theatre which is at the entrance to Leeds Station. There was a News Theatre in most large stations in the country and, as their name suggests, they showed newsreels which were interspersed with cartoons. The theory was that there would be people with time to kill whilst waiting for a train but not long enough to accommodate watching a full film. It was cheap to get in as few people would watch the whole programme, just nipping in for perhaps 15-20 minutes. It was a boon to we kids who could get entertained all day for next to nothing, if you didn’t mind watching the same Tom and Jerry flick over and over along with news reports from exotic world locations where there was a war or natural disaster. A real case of yin and yang.
There are sixteen ports of call in total, the last one being on Cookridge Street and referred to as The Coliseum. It was just round the corner from my grammar school in the early sixties, by which time it was called The Gaumont (the cinema, not the school). Not only is the Gaumont history but so is Leeds Central High School. I was just about to add that it makes me feel old but then I realised there is a good reason for that – I am old!
The tour is based on years of research by artist Adam Allsuch Boardman who has also illustrated the Hyde Park Picture House’s ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ heritage project. He has drawn the facades of many other lost cinemas in Leeds which can be seen at http://www.lostcinemas.co.uk I found one omission from the list of 83 entries, and that is the Easy Road Picture House where my grandad was the commissionaire. He was so conscientious that when my mother got married and he had to ‘give her away’ he walked down the aisle of the church backwards with a torch in his hand.
To do the trip properly, turn on your Bluetooth, slap in your earbuds and go to http://www.lostcinemas.co.uk/#/tour/city-centre-walking-tour