The Picture House, Keighley on the evening of the RATMA International Short Film Festival Awards, October 23, 2021. © Sally Christie
The Ritz and Essoldo
Cinema in Keighley holds some valued memories for me. As a young boy, I would go on the Stanbury bus down the Worth Valley into town, walk through Old Man’s Park and past The Ritz every school day. This ornate, 1930s art deco building on Alice Street was designed by architect Arthur Heslop Antrum, the uncle of my schoolmate, Richard. My Granddad, William (Bill) Nixon, was an usher there in his retirement years. Dressed in his posh burgundy suit, sparkling white shirt and dicky bow tie, he used to take me during Saturday matinées to see inside the movie projection room.
My walk along Skipton Road towards Hartington Middle School would continue past The Essoldo (now The Picture House), often stopping to read the posters displaying the latest films on show. I can still smell the popcorn in the auditorium. And I can taste Kia-Ora orange juice we used to buy from vendors going up and down the aisles with trays of goodies. We would sit there deeply in the plush red seats and slurp through the performance of films like Where Eagles Dare, based on Alistair MacLean’s thrilling novel; Slapshot, the ice hockey film starring Paul Newman; and Goal, that I saw wearing my 1966 World Cup Willie tee-shirt.
Drama and dystopia
Some of the films, such as Richard III, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier, were disturbing. The Tower of London scenes in which the Duke of Clarence is drowned in a barrel of wine and the two Princes are suffocated in their bed scared me so much I couldn’t sleep at night for ages afterwards.
A Clockwork Orange had some positive influences on me, notably its classical music featuring Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie and fast-paced William Tell Overture, the Moog-synthesized Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (Purcell) and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But coupled with the ultra-violence of Alex and his Droogs, the dystopian world of A Clockwork Orange was too unsettling for many. The director, Stanley Kubric, removed the film from circulation in 1973 after wired up skinheads dressed in white jeans and grandad shirts, eye make-up and bowler hats agitated and played out violent scenes on Keighley’s and other town streets in Britain.
Return to The Picture House
On October 23, I had a virtual return to the cinema in Keighley. My film, The Mask and More, was one of fifteen selected for the RATMA International Short Film Festival 2021 and was shown on the big screen at The Picture House. Although it did not win the public vote, I am proud to have had my production in the final presented in my hometown. Congratulations to Daniël Beckers and his film Badge of Honour, an excellent documentary about the work of a blacksmith. My appreciation also goes out to the organizers, Marcus Gregg and Gareth James, for making RATMA happen and helping to put Keighley on the map of world cinema and independent short film production.
The Mask and More
You can view the short (3 mins) version shown at RATMA and the full-length documentary (66 mins) of The Mask and More on Vimeo. The book Behind the Mask accompanies the film. It includes photographs and interviews with people in Mito, Peru, where the Huaconada, a dance recognized by UNESCO for its intangible cultural heritage, is performed in January every year. You can see and purchase Behind the Mask at Betula Books.
Get a free download of PeruZine from Betula Books
A series of short, limited edition publications exploring people and places in Peru has been launched by Betula Books. It’s called PeruZine. If you would like to receive a free download of the first edition, simply click on the button below, go to the mailing list and tell me where to send it and it will be on its way to you!
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