ARTYFACTS: Brighton Cinema - the reel deal at the Wellsbourne Society

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brighton Cinema - the reel deal at the Wellsbourne Society

‘Clayton and Bramwell’ sounds like a make of jellied jam but they’re actually the eponymous, cheeky chappies who run the Wellsbourne Society, a regular night devoted to celebration of Brighton. Far from being some dry, nimby lectures, this is a stand-up, club event with plenty of irreverence, chat and drinking.
First up was Sarah Tobias, who gave us a great run through (with pics) of Brighton’s early cinemas, from the small, flimsy studios in the 1890s to the picture palaces of the 30s, 40s and 50s. There were, at one point, 48 cinemas in Brighton, 1 seat for every 7 residents. Great talk by a real expert, although a touch of nimbyism crept in when she (wrongly) claimed that the old Rex cinema was now a block of flats (it’s a friend of mine’s art studio) and attacked a local developer for wanting to sell the Astoria. Sure, he wants to develop the site but to a badly needed media hub with a café and community rooms. It’s an asbestos ridden building that is impossibly expensive to restore. She then had a swipe at his Stanmer development, where he’s resurrected an underused building to create a restaurant, café and badly needed housing. Didn't detract too much from her great talk though.
Mathew Clayton then told a remarkable tale about his Aunt Dora. I won’t replay the whole thing but it started with a sudden death, developed as a love story, had a bit of history and detective work, and ended as a tragedy. He can spin a good yarn can Mathew.
Dr Bramwell delivered an even weird story about Brighton’s co-joined Hilton Sisters, Daisy and Violet, who were sold by their barmaid mother in 1908 to the landlady of the pub and went on to make huge amounts of money in vaudeville in the US. They came back to Brighton in 1933 to find their real mother but she had died in giving birth to her fourth child. Poignant story with a nice ending – the twins have been remembered by having the No 5 bus to Patcham named after them. Only in Brighton! I won't even begin to explain his later anecdote about his ex-girlfriend, Roy Harper, sex and sibling rivalry!
A guy called Frank (sorry missed his second name) reeled out two talks on the history of Brighton Cinema. Loved these as he presented a series of clips, while explaining where they were shot, the false continuities, along with some fascinating backstory detail. What comes across on these nights is the genuine love and enthusiasm the speakers have for their subjects. Frank had oodles of this.
Can’t recommend this highly enough as a great, cheap night out (only £5 entry) and it was great to meet Sarah Crisp and her partner Ben, who just happened to be sitting at the next table. I’ve known her brother for nearly 30 years!
Next Wellsbourne Society is on 20th October at The Latest Music Bar in Manchester Street and the theme (I think) is 'Dirty Weekends'. Guaranteed saucy fun.


Blogger fredblog said...

Badly needed media hub? Don't make me laugh! The Astoria is surrounded by empty office blocks, err potential media hubs? And when is Mr Holland going to reopen the Engineerium?

7:48 pm  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Hi Fred
Place has been empty for 15 years and was a Bingo hall before that. Was at a meeting this week on this very subject. There are companies who have taken on staff elsewhere (Sheffield) and others thinking of relocating due to lack of suitable office space. He's a developer and would be the last person to develop office space without potential clients. At the moment the digital companies in Brighton need to be encouraged to start and stay.
Old cinemas are almost impossible to do anything with, especially when they have asbestos problems. I suppose I'm in favour of offices as they mean jobs.

7:59 pm  

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