My Life in Film

Thirty years ago life at Brinsford was about partners, music, drinking, being a pig at meal-times and most of all the Roxy. Several times each week we would congregate in the Roxy. Yes that's the right word because for those like me it was a religion - a weekly ritual which took place in our very own cinema. When I left college it was one of the things I missed most. I had been a film fan since I was about eleven but this was as good as it ever got. Many of my personal favourite films were first seen there. It's a period I will never forget

In 1977 I arrived at college and discovered that Brinsford had a cinema. I mean, how many halls do you know that have their own cinema? It was in a terrible state. A white room! Poor sound with broken speakers and no sweeties to eat or throw as the situation demanded. The Brinsford Exec quickly set about repainting the room matt black, replacing the speakers (remember Dolby Stereo only really came out that year) and starting to get a regular supply of movies. The room itself was big enough to seat about 100 comfortably on an array of old sofas and arm chairs. One of my great memories was the fight for the best sofas before the film started. Imagine 150 students fighting over 10 decent seats and scrabbling for a good place to watch the action (not all of which took place on screen). The screen was a piece of white wood (aspect ratio 2.35!!) precariously hanging from the ceiling about a yard forward of the front wall. The projection room was the telephone exchange for the entire campus that just happened to be next door. Several small windows linked us to the main theatre.

In 1978 we got serious. Someone would drive over to the college and pick up two very large boxes each containing films on giant 16mm reels. The college used to book them from either Rank or EMI and show the films on Fridays and Mondays. We would use them over the weekend. This was pre-VHS days! Two films every weekend after dinner, the first straight after the meal and the second after the bar closed at 10:30. The films were played on Saturday and Sunday in reverse. The Chairman of the students union would announce the films at tea and get pelted with food. The students would then race en-masse to the theatre, pay 25 pence for admission and a stack more for cans of Lilt, Coke and various crisps and chocolates. We would go to the projection room , thread the old projector and hope that the bulb did not blow or other sundry disasters such as the film snapping . The film would start after either Louise or Sian (gorgeous first years) had been half stripped and dragged through one of the small windows. I never understood why we seemed to have a regular group of volunteers to undergo this ritual? The Sunday night performance was always a highlight as we usually got oranges with the meal and they invariably ended up stuck to the screen or chucked through the windows at your diligent projectionists. On occasion your diligent projectionists would also collect whole bin loads of rubbish and tip it back through the window onto the heads of unsuspecting people below. This was always a good one to try at the beginning of term as the freshers never suspected that 3rd years would be so immature (we were - and still are)

Highlight of each film was the reel change. Each reel was 40 minutes long . After 35 minutes you'd notice the reel coming to an end and start to watch the top right hand corner of the screen for the adrenaline inducing little circle. You weren't a decent projectionist unless you could reel change in under a minute. Of course if you were the unfortunate projectionist showing Barry Lyndon on the 10:30 show the main priority was to stay awake. The other perk of being in the booth was that this was where the spare sweeties and drinks were stored. I can think of one person who first encountered his ongoing struggle with his waistline following his attempt to eat all the Monster Munchies. The film finished and as projectionist our task was to rewind it. This involved spooling the reel backwards at high speed onto another reel on a special device near the door. Someone comes racing through the door and Bang! the film unspools all over the floor. Sorry Rank-EMI , now you know why your 16mm prints were always in such a state - as for the Poly projectionists on Monday.

We decided to re-decorate the Roxy in 1978 . Ten students (ten ? more like five -ed) armed with lots of cans of black paint decided to re-paint most of Brinsford matt black -the Roxy being the start. Funny how this scenario led to more paint on the people than the walls every time. The last paint roller was left stuck to the rafters by paint alone. It was a real mess and probably carcinogenic but heck - what fun!

We were getting well organised - scrounging as much as possible from the main site union for as little as possible. Each term there would be a list of all the films for the whole term and each Wednesday we'd walk round the blocks and the campus sticking up freshly Banda'd ads (remember the Banda machine?). But this wasn't enough.....

One of the great pleasures was our midweek Alternative Film Festival that was a Brinsford only affair. Dick Moore and I had the privilege of browsing the film catalogues and putting together a season of totally dreadful movies (well we thought they were classics actually - ed) . Although we had our doubters the students loved them. Frankenstein Conquers the World, The Tower Of Evil, Gorgo, et al, every Tuesday. Occasionally we'd throw in a Humphrey Bogart film, but this was about dross. We even sold them back to the Poly main site with sometimes mixed results. Strange thing. I still like those movies.

Great moments, you ask? So many. But some absolute standouts were the end of Carrie observed from the projection room. The whole audience levitated by about three feet. Blue Water White Death was documentary about Great White Sharks. We had obtained an Anamorphic lens for the projector and projected the film at 2.35 widescreen. From that day on I was always going to be into widescreen movies. It was soooo awesome. Talking of which - one of the occasional problems were these wide-screen movies that required the wide screen lens that sometimes got forgotten at the poly.

Our projector was 16mm but occasionally the film did not fit. As part of our rag week we'd have a film evening and I reckon it was the best attended night of the year -and not just the guys. Twice a year we had the White Mouse film festival. I would creep off to a local porn shop and get admitted to a back room. The floorboards were pulled up and we got to rent the most gross 8mm shorts you can imagine. We then had the challenge of borrowing an 8mm projector from a member of staff . Now why did we call it the White Mouse Film festival? Well, at the main college we had several very active groups and one was a bunch of feminists. They had managed to get the college to write into the students constitution that you could not charge money for lurid activities like porn. We neatly sidestepped this when our 2nd treasurer (who is now in the legal profession!) suggested that instead of charging one penny for a candy white mouse we charged 26pence for the mouse and made buying a mouse a condition of entry. Nice one Robin. If you're reading this don't deny you ever went to a White Mouse evening!

I loved that cinema. I look back at the whole period with the greatest affection. The Roxy continued to develop my love of cinema. I saw the great films of the seventies and some of the great films of all time amidst a bunch of drunken students who were as close to each other (in more ways than one) as any group I've known. Too many names to mention everyone but Robin, you were a star with your late night duties in the projection room, Dick, you became a Monster Munch by college end. Sian, you looked great as you flailed around stuck in the projection window being mercilessly tickled. This was special, you just had to be there.

Robert Holloway

Brinsford 1977-81

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