The ‘Flicks’ in Moston

What might be regarded as the golden age of the suburban cinema was, with hindsight, rather short-lived, in fact barely fifty years. Moston joined in with its own trio, not counting the Princess (Conran Street) and Victory (Capstan Street), which strictly speaking were in Harpurhey and Blackley respectively, though not far from Moston Lane. The three Moston cinemas are mentioned below, in order of opening date.

The MIP Palace (Moston Imperial Picture Palace)

Opened as a theatre and music hall, with occasional film showings, on Hartley Street, off Moston Lane. An advert in ‘The Stage’ of 7 July 1910 announces “Vulcaris and his Speciality Piano Entertainment” appearing for two weeks, with “Humorous Songs and Excellent Sketches”. The following year saw the “Three Sisters Godfrey, Vocalists and Acrobatic Dancers”. After being acquired by Fred Severs of Little Lever, the MIP was refurbished, extended and reopened as a purpose-built cinema on 29 May 1916. It had a 22ft screen and seated 925. Six years later it became a limited company under directors Eliza Preston and W.H.Simcock.

A friend and neighbour, Carole Gausden, has an early memory of seeing “Mandy”, with Jack Hawkins, one summer’s evening in the 1950s.

The last film shown was “The Cruel Sea” (also starring Jack Hawkins) in 1959, after which the owners stripped out the seats and converted the building into an indoor market (they themselves had a carpet stall), in which form it will be remembered by many. More recently, it has become one large food hall, with the main entrance on Pym Street, and now renamed “Moston Superstore”.The well-known MIP Market, Hartley Street, in October 2007. So far, no photos of the MIP as a cinema have come to light.

The Adelphi

A tin hut named the Empress was opened on what was then Dean Lane (now Kenyon Lane) around 1914. It is not clear whether the Empress was renamed or replaced, but by 1918 Vincent Tildsley was disposing of the “Adelphi Cinema, which he ran at Moston”. At that time it could accommodate an audience of 900. A year later the company went into liquidation and changed hands several times up to 1932.The Adelphi in 2007, as Deanway DIY, on Kenyon Lane (originally part of Dean Lane, through to Oldham Road, Newton Heath).

By 1937, having been acquired by H.D.Moorhouse, a brand-new building was opened, seating 1312 and with a 36ft wide proscenium. In this form it lasted until 1962, when it became a bingo hall. After this closed, despite some fire damage while it stood empty, it was taken over by Deanway DIY, who still own it and whose manager very kindly allowed me to look round and take interior photos. The seating ranks and much of the original decorative plasterwork are still intact.Inside the Adelphi in 2019, looking from the back row towards the screen, still quite recognisable as a former cinema.

The Fourways

The “Four Ways”, as originally styled, opened on 17 October 1939 with a screening of “Submarine Patrol” starring George Bancroft and Richard Greene. Located at the junction of three roads, Moston Lane, Charlestown Road and Chain Bar, locals said the “fourth way” was into the cinema itself, but this may have been tongue-in-cheek. It had 1256 seats, a screen 38ft wide and was the only one of the three that I visited, as a cinema. The Fourways, from Chain Bar, in 1959. Inset: a similar view sixty years later.

My friend Steve Wilson has provided a personal glimpse into life behind the public view:-

My grandparents, Fred & Emily Booth, worked at the Fourways in the early 1960’s. Emily was an Usherette, evenings only, checking tickets, showing people to their seats and taking a turn with the ice cream and popcorn tray, while Fred was the Fireman, caretaker, handyman and Jack-of-all-trades. The box office and projection room had their own staff.

I once spent a day with my Grandad, helping him out. His first job was to stoke the coke-fired heating boilers, then clean out the seating area, which was usually littered with cigarette packets and dimps, empty ice cream tubs, toffee papers and popcorn bags!

He would also do any repairs needed, such as replacing damaged seats or changing lightbulbs. Another job was putting up posters and pictures in the display outside, for any new films being advertised.

In the evenings he would don his Fireman’s uniform and keep an eye on things generally. He was only 5’6” but he would not be messed about. He was known as “Fiery Fred” and if anyone misbehaved he would frog-march them to the door by the scruff of the neck and throw them out, no matter how big they were!‘Fiery Fred’ and his wife, Emily, outside the Fourways entrance in 1962 [Photo by Steve Wilson].

The Fourways lasted until November 1973, the last main feature being “Live and Let Die” with Roger Moore, but unlike the other venues it was demolished soon afterwards and replaced by flats named “Fourways Walk”.

Local history articles often end rather wistfully, lamenting what has been lost, but this one can sound a more optimistic note. Thanks to volunteers who came together with Miners’ Club owner Louis Beckett, the 70-seater Moston Small Cinema opened in 2012, so the tradition of communal film-watching in Moston can continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.Inside Moston Small Cinema during a screening of “Round Here” (by Modify Productions) in March 2018

 

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Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and a little bit of history

My knowledge of Shakespeare is limited. I studied Macbeth at school but that’s about it.

Apart from there being a storm at some point, I had no preconceived ideas about The Tempest. My expectations were high though, the two previous plays I’d been to at North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) were excellent. I wasn’t disappointed.Never mind the howling wind, the amount of dialogue blew me away. There were some surprises along the way that kept the audience on its toes, as well as some very funny parts. The Arctic island really set the scene, the costumes were just right and the make-up was brilliant.

I had to admire the time and effort needed to translate the script into something that someone as dumb as me could understand.  It worked because these young talented actors gave their characters life, had great confidence and were thoroughly convincing.

The theatre is one mile from my house. One mile!  I have to pinch myself for not finding out about it sooner and they’ve been here for three years.As a company they’ve been around a while longer. I know this because I met Prab Singh (pictured), director and co-owner some months ago and he gave me some of the background.

“I started as a cast member at Abraham Moss Theatre and worked my way up to become the theatre manager. I loved it. Then the funding dried up so I asked if I could keep using the theatre in my own time alongside my job as an actor.

When the council closed the theatre down completely I teamed up with Mark Beaumont, who I’d met when we worked on The Witches of Eastwick, and we decided to set up our own company – quickly.

With no other space available, we held rehearsals in corridors, taking our shows, reviews and pantos on tour. The money from ticket sales went back into productions and, over time, we began to accumulate sets, props and costumes.

We were quite nomadic and it was hard.”

The route from being nomadic to landing in Moston took them from Abraham Moss, to a space at the Factory Youth Zone and then, of all places, to Harpurhey Baths.

“Our audience was loyal and our reputation grew. We had enquiries for hiring sets, props and costumes. If we didn’t have just what they wanted we had the ability to create, build or source it.”

When their time at the baths came to an abrupt end, they went in search of a new home; somewhere large enough to run classes, do rehearsals and put productions on all under one roof and it led them to 270A Lightbowne Road, Moston.

“It was big and empty. Like a blank canvass – just what Mark’s good at, visualising what can be done with a building space. I’ve been amazed at the level of interest and support. Local people turn up and just volunteer to help out.

It wasn’t part of the plan to start with but now we’re here in Moston we’d really like to stay.”

If the performances I’ve seen so far are anything to go by, I’d really like them to stay too.

… and if Shakespeare isn’t your thing, you might fancy their next project; ‘The Moviecals – Music from the Movies’. It promises to be a joyous evening of entertainment and I’m buzzing already. I’d book your seat early if I were you.

There’s more to NWTAC than meets the eye but that’s for another day. In the meantime click here for details of performances over the coming months. You can book on-line or call the box office on 0161 207 1617.

You can follow them on Facebook too and keep up to date with all that’s happening.

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Forever Manchester’s Birthday Bash 2019

Last Friday Forever Manchester held their Annual Birthday Bash. If you wanted to go but missed it, don’t worry, I reckon they’ll have another next year. But read on and you’ll hopefully get a hint about what to expect.It was a hell of a mix. A posh hotel, dress code smart casual, had quite a corporate feel; reception drinks, fabulous dinner, candelabras, cameras, speeches, awards, entertainment, DJ, the lot. I’ve been to corporate events in a previous life but this was different, much better. It was less formal, had a friendly, happy air and a great party atmosphere.The ‘boss’ gave a stirring speech and talked about philanthropy. Probably mentioned other stuff too but I’ve slept since then. The philanthropy bit stuck in my mind. To be frank and up until last Friday, I didn’t know what it meant. I like it though. It was relevant.

Awards were handed out to gleeful recipients cheered along by their mates. The lucky ones gave short acceptance speeches and posed for photos with Captain Manchester, a curious but handsome masked chap in tights and a cape.The entertainment was totally mixed, representing groups across the city. It started with The Greater Manchester Pipe Band from Cheetham Hill, then Indian classical dancers Salford Malayalee, street dancing from Xpress Urself of Bolton and Chorlton Ladies Choir (they sang, didn’t dance). One after the other on the stage or dance floor they treated us to great performances, closing with vocals from the singer Denise Johnson of Primal Scream.The evening is a celebration and an opportunity to raise funds. I had a go at Captain Manchester’s Magical Tombola (I’m sure that holiday prize had my name on it, but ah well). Then, a silent auction took place live on the big screens – a fascinating event to watch with amazing prizes that raised thousands.

When DJ Dave Haslam started his piece, everyone was ready for a good old knees up and we danced the rest of the night away.

The drink flowed and our taxi came all too soon. Apart from a wicked hangover the next day, what can I say; it was a rare treat and just great fun.

Forever Manchester is a charity that raises funds and supports community activity across Greater Manchester. This website, Another Music, is one of those activities. So you wouldn’t be reading this blog, or any of the other stories on here, if it wasn’t for them.

To find out more about the work Forever Manchester does and how you can get involved just click here. The website is full of great stories and you can have a go on Captain Manchester’s Magical Tombola too. You never know, there might be a holiday with your name on it!