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ABC LYRIC. OPENING NIGHT PROGRAMME NOTES.
PAGE 16 confirms the story that a Car Park did have an attendant, and although it is not mentioned I have seen a photo which shows a petrol pump adjacent to the Car Park hut.
The same page also indicates the provision of the huge internal queuing area, and the Lounge area which encircled the upper area of the foyer.
SEE PAGE 6. This has large semi-curtained plate windows which screened off the view of those waiting for the start of the next performance, from those eating in the Restaurant & vice versa! Deep and comfortable velour covered settee’s were set into alcoves: the whole area being carpeted.
PAGE 13. The cinema was equipped with a very effective Plenum air conditioning plant and during very hot weather it was normal to advertise that it was cooler inside!
PAGE 14. This would appear to be a standard Compton organ console shot that I have seen in other ABC programmes, even if the console that appeared looked nothing like the photo! During my time at the Lyric I actually traced the organist Neville Turner, by this time playing Hammond organ entertaining patrons in a Yarmouth Sea-Front Sun Lounge.
I was the Chief Projectionist at the ABC Lyric, Wellingborough & when I heard about the plans for the ABC Blackpool I applied for a position and became Co-Chief Projectionist / Lighting Engineer. My interview was with the (in) famous Nick Mole who was in charge of all the ABC Circuit projection equipment. The other Co-Chief was the Sound Engineer Brian Wall who came from the Regal, Chesterfield, and who I understand remained at the cinema right up to the day when it ceased showing films…having been tripled for some years.
The Manager was indeed Robert (Bob) Parsons, a Manager who I found to be very un-approachable and not made any the better because he’d expected the Chief projectionist at his former cinema to be given the position that I had! In turn Bob Parsons was replaced by Mr Chadwick, who it may not be known was the brother of the very famous Cinema, broadcasting and recording organist Doreen Chadwick.
The Strand Board arrived one morning prior to the opening of the theatre, and it was manhandled by 6 of the projection & (visiting) Strand Engineers from street level up to the mid Circle entrance, and then right up to the back wall where there was a huge hole waiting for the console to pass through. The wall was then bricked up and decorated to fit in with the theatre decor. The Sound Engineer had a box sited on the back row beneath the projection room portholes, from where he controlled all the mics and sound levels /tape machines etc for the live shows.
The room containing all the lighting switches, circuits and solenoids to actuate them was several floors up above the dressing rooms back stage, but almost in line with the projection room, from where the multi cable from the console travelled across the ceiling void and into this room.
Now the problems began!
The building was still being knocked about and rebuilt into what were the four exterior remaining walls of the original cinema/theatre (The Hippodrome) and so dust was flying and settling everywhere. The Strand Engineers (I believe one was a Mike Brown) had already spent many days in this switch room installing all the stacks and circuits. The settling dust caused them huge headaches as it got into all the contacts, despite the entire room eventually being shielded in poly sheeting.
Came the very first day of rehearsal for the Cliff Richards Show. It had been agreed that prior to rehearsals I would go down to London to Strand and be given tuition on the board. This never happened and so the first time I even saw the Lighting Plot for the show was on the morning of the first rehearsal. The aforementioned Strand Engineer was designated to sit next to me at the console in order to show me what switches, pre-sets etc did and also how to set them up for scene changes and store the settings for immediate re-capture.
I set up Scene 1 on the top bank and Scene 2 on the lower bank. On cue I pressed the first pre-set. The Producer of the show got on the intercom and told me to re-check everything as this was not what he had written down. Doubled checked everything and we began again. He called a halt as it was still wrong. The Strand Engineer then took over and set it to the lighting plot. It was still not correct. Rehearsal was cancelled as it was obvious something was wrong.
After several hours the fault was traced to the wiring …which at least exonerated me. The fault? When they wired up the console they did it in reverse. So every time I selected (for instance) Tab 1 which should have given me circuit 1…..the switchgear at the other end of the building actuated circuit 200. Tab 2 = 199 / Tab 3 = 198 etc etc. Only one circuit was correct i.e.: circuit 100 which was half way between the wrong and correct circuits of 200. The entire Lighting plot had to then be re-written showing the opposite numbers to the original ones.
Even when the board was then up and running the dust still permeated the switch room and for the first couple of weeks the Strand Engineer spent his time in the theatre sorting out all kinds of associated problems.
In the Pathe News sequence, which shows the very last time that a tram travelled down Church Street, there is a brief shot of me operating the board at 5’45”.
I later moved into TV at Granada Studios in Manchester and a couple of years ago I tried to find out if the Strand Console was still there, because the only way it could have been removed would have been to have smashed a hole in the front projection room wall again. Over the years the cinema eventually was tripled and the board was still there, but there was no use for it anymore. It was then gutted and turned into a Nite Club, and I learned that the console was removed and was last known to have been stored in an understage dressing room from where it was eventually sold. It now resides, purely as an exhibit, in the foyer of a huge Production Resource venue [LS-LIVE] in West Yorkshire.
Lyric – Wellingborough.
As can be seen from the 1946 photo the projection room was vast in size. It stretched the entire width of the cinema and had rewind / battery / rectifier / workshop / office / toilet & rest room all on the one floor. There were three entrances to the projection room (1) up the fire escape from street level which went past the Managers Office window. (2) through the disused Cafe / Restaurant (3) through a door in the projection room wall at the back circle in the gangway behind the last row of seats. Nothing surprised us more if a patron should suddenly appear in the secondary sound proof door expecting to find the toilet!
There were 4 (recorded) Midland Console broadcasts: two each by Trevor Willetts and Reginald Porter Brown. The organ was eventually removed and was installed in Weavers Road School for many years, devoid of its decorative glass surrounds. It now resides and is a feature in Bilston Town Hall. The Manager during my time there was Mr Ron Crabb. A great and approachable Manager, and one who was very publicity minded, but who stood no nonsense from staff or unruly patrons. There was also a visit from the popular BBC ‘DOWN YOUR WAY’ team, who had responded to a letter from me indicating that I had never ever heard of a projectionist being interviewed on it. Myself and the Manager were both interviewed by the programme presenter Franklin Engelmann. I was 21 years of age and the youngest Chief Projectionist on the ABC circuit at that time.
Back stage there was two floors of dressing rooms and in earlier days it is clear that stage presentations of one sort or another were presented. In later years with the installation of the cinemascope screen, it could still be used for this purpose, although the Strand Electric board was not duplicated, and therefore had to be operated from the projection room. Apart from the two Ross projectors, there was a Stelmar spotlight and a single Robert Rigby slide lantern.
In the very early days the adjacent Car Park actually had a Petrol Pump and an attendant to operate it from a brick hut at the entrance. The pump was eventually removed and the hut became a place to store Staff bicycles! The cinema also had another unique facility which permitted hundreds of patrons to queue for the next performance in inclement weather. This indoor facility stretched the length of the building down the left hand car park side and was accessed through curtains at the back right hand side of the entrance foyer …which also was the access for the Ladies Toilet! The entrance to the ‘queuing ramp’ (as it was known) can be seen in the historic architect shot of the entrance foyer, as can also be seen the decorative lanterns that initially provided the foyer illumination. It was of course, the projectionists’ job to lamp and wash all the glasswork for these, as can be seen in one of the photos. When the cinema was redecorated these wall lanterns were all removed and replaced with a central modern chandelier as can be seen in the colour shot.
Patrons entered through sets of double doors from the street and obtained tickets from a small central pay box, and from there walked into the foyer and made their way to the stalls at the right hand side, or the circle by the stairs to the left.
I was sorry when it came time for me to leave the Lyric as it was a fun place to work in those days, but I’d applied for, and gained the position of Chief Electrician/Projectionist at the newly built ABC Blackpool….but that’s another story.
This shot is taken from the ABC ‘in house'magazine. The guy in the front stalls is Dick Hurren who produced the Cliff Richards Show that opened the venue.
I think you are mistaken.I 100% sure this is Arthur Worsley especially if this shot was taken during the first season at the ABC. Ray Allan’s Lord Charles had a a monocle eye glass…this dummy does not. Arthur – without doubt one of the finest vents in the business, died in 2001.
Sorry…but the ABC theatre was NEVER known as the Princess. The ABC Princess was on the promenade opposite the Metropole Theatre and had no stage facilities of any kind. The ABC in Church Street was formerly the Hippodrome, and the openinmg show was Summer Holiday starring Cliff and the Shadows. I know this to be true because I was the Co-Chief Projectionist/Lighting Engineer at the time. The ABC eventually ended up in the hands of Cannon and was then divided up into one major screen in the old Circle, and 2/3 under the neath in the stall. It eventaully ended up as a Nite Club / Disco.