Tuesday 20 September 2022

An 80s Newspaper Clipping

A few weeks ago, I was flicking through my copy of Skeleton Crew and found this newspaper clipping.  I can only assume I ripped it out of the Kettering Evening Telegraph (dated 20th September 1986 - 36 years ago!) to take into work so my friends & I could plan what we were going to see at the cinema.  We went a lot in those days.
Just look at that terrific selection of films!    While Cobra was the first 18 certificate I got into (as I wrote about here, though according to my diary I saw it in Corby), I managed to see The Evil DeadRocky IV and Karate Kid 2 at one of the venues shown, at those astonishing prices (I remember a double-bill would cost £2.50 except, I presume, on Mondays and Thursdays).

I loved these places and they held a lot of history for me.  Dad took me to see my first James Bond film at Corby cinema (as I wrote about here), I saw a lot of great films at Kettering (Dad took me and Claire to Star Wars, Nick & I saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark, which I wrote about in What Gets Left Behind, Dad & I saw ET, the list goes on) and when Bentley’s opened it quickly became a favourite.

Attendance must have been falling (probably not helped by the fleapit nature of these cinemas, well past their prime) but the independents were clearly knackered and on their last legs when the multiplexes arrived and did away with them.  Sixfields in Northampton dealt the first blow and the Odeon in Kettering finished the job.  I'm not a big fan of the multiplex (I still go to them, obviously) because to me they feel like heartless, sterile places, more interested in selling food and drinks than anything else.  Yes, Kettering Ohio had holes in the ceiling and seats were missing and it was often better to sit down in the dark so you couldn’t see the state of your seat, but it felt real, like a proper cinema, where everyone there cared about the films.

On the bright side, independent cinemas have made something of a comeback and we often go to the Northampton Filmhouse (which was originally called the Errol Flynn), where Jon & I saw a brace of Hitchcock, Alison & I watched the INXS Live Baby Live film and I took Dad to see Dunkirk where the soundtrack almost rattled the speakers off the wall - it's small and comfortable, well run and shows an eclectic range of films.

 And yes, I know I sound like a dinosaur.
Another clipping I kept, this one from 1982
If we fancied a change, we'd sometimes go to the ABC Northampton (now a Jesus Army Centre) or the Palace Wellingborough (now a pub called The Cutting Room).  Later, when we had our own cars, we'd go to the midnight movie at The Point in Milton Keynes (the only multiplex I ever had any fondness for, it now stands by the MK shopping centre looking knackered and forlorn).

I took this picture in 2005, knowing that the building
would eventually be knocked down and wanting to
have a record of it...
Kettering Ohio started life as the Savoy Cinema, opened as a dual purpose cinema and theatre on 21st May 1938 with Spencer Tracey in The Big City plus a variety show on stage. It was built over the remains of the Coliseum Theatre which had opened in 1910 but burned down in 1937.

The Savoy had 1,150 seats in the stalls and circle as well as a full stage (the Northampton Repertory Company performed regular seasons between 1949 and 1951) and was taken over by Clifton Cinemas on 25th August 1944.  In 1968 the circle was split off to make a smaller (485 seat) cinema called the Studio, with a bingo hall taking over the stalls and stage area.  In 1973 the screen was split into two (known as Studio 1 & 2, seating 160 and 140 respectively).  After briefly closing in 1986, it re-opened as the independent Ohio and finally closed in 1997 when the Odeon opened.

The Ohio is a key location in my novel In The Rain With The Dead (Magellan, the baddie, makes his base there) and I wrote about the cinema as it was being demolished in 2014.

Bentley’s of Burton Latimer was originally The Electric Palace, which opened in August 1914 with an auditorium that seated 500.  It became a Watts Cinema in 1938 but closed in 1960.  In 1985, Ashley Wyatt bought the building, renovated it and opened Bentley’s as a 182-seat cinema in January 1986 though it closed the following year.  It was re-opened in 1994 by Brian McFarlane (who owned the Ohio) but closed soon after.  The venue is now an Italian restaurant.

You can just see the wording "cinema" on the back of the auditoriums.
Photograph from the late 80s.
The Forum Cinema opened on 7th April 1973 as a Jerry Lewis Cinema (part of the US based Network Cinema Corporation), featuring two screens (each seating 325) as part of a new shopping centre being built in Corby.  It was almost immediately bought out by the Walker chain, re-named Oscar cinema and then, in 1980, Focus cinema before Ashley Wyatt took it over in September 1983 and renamed it Forum Cinema.  The number one screen was eventually twinned, with number two becoming a laser quest games centre and the cinema closed (to become an over-25’s nightclub called Talkies) on 24th September 1992.  The Forum Cinema site was demolished in the summer of 2005 when the shopping centre was rebuilt.

I like to think I sound like a wistfully melancholic dinosaur now...

Cinematreasures.org - Savoy, Kettering
Cinematreasures.org - Forum, Corby
Cinematreasures.org - Bentleys, Burton Latimer

Monday 5 September 2022

An Interview and Writing Advice

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the good people at The Bookshelf Cafe News site.

You can read the whole interview here but I thought I'd put up one of my answers on the blog since it deals with a writing related question I sometimes get asked about character names.

The Bookshelf Cafe: How do you come up with character names for your stories?

MW: I usually have a name fairly soon for the male and female leads though sometimes when David & I are discussing them, we use “Fred and Ginger” so we can keep track of who we’re talking about. The problem there is what when the final names settle in, we’re still calling them Fred or Ginger. For the remainder of the characters, I like to keep it really simple by picking a favourite film or TV show and downloading the imdb cast & crew list. For instance, with DON’T GO BACK, I chose the “Hunter/Hunted” episode from THE PROFESSIONALS TV series and that’s why the baddie has Cowley for a surname. By mixing and matching characters, actors and technicians, you have more than one hundred name combinations in front of you instantly and it saves spending too much time trying to think of names for yourself (and, if you write enough stories, you’ll quickly find you tend to repeat names).

Over the course of the ten-question interview, I talk about what started me off with writing, how I plot and what music I listen to. You can find the rest of my answers on this link.

If you're interested, David & I recorded a little snippet on one of our Friday Night Walks where I talk about the same thing. You can see it on this link here 

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