So I came from looking at Coventry archives and struggling to piece a narrative together that can hook a viewer. So I turned to my roots: my father has been in the cinema industry for the most part of his working life and really is an orb of cinema history knowledge. He can tell me exactly how long some films’ running times are, for example. I asked Dad about the Coventry cinemas and it turns out that the Alexandra, or Theatre One, is of great importance to The Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa- where my father’s cinema is. In the 1980s, James Green removed the projectors and the Dolby sound system from Theatre One and installed the sound system at the Kinema which was used until 2011 before the Kinema went digital.
Bingo! Turns out that there are lots of artefacts at the Kinema which were sourced from other cinemas around the country and James saved them from the dump and brought them back to life at his cinema. I decided to go home and see James: asked him to take me on a tour of the Kinema and I recorded him as he told stories about different pieces in the collection; from clocks to the organ. I have photographed the artefacts (admittedly with difficulty because of the vivid reds). So I had audio, pictures and locations. To me it made sense to plot the audio/visuals on a map, pinning where each artefact came from.
I used Google Maps; although there are limitations: layering audio or video is not yet possible; furthermore, as a narrative, viewers need context which I feel needs to be more than in the map description. Therefore, for my ‘artefact’ it would be more of a website than just a map. Realistically, clicking on the organ pin on the map will open the picture and play the audio, then there would be a click link to find out more of this organ and see videos of it being played etc. The platform would be so that people could be educated about cinema, independent cinema and the Kinema. I could have chosen a different map generator, however, Google Maps is popular and already widely used; so engagement will be easier. Had I got more experience in making dynamic maps, then as the audio was playing, parts of the map would then interact such as other pins would light up. Furthermore, I realise that I need ambient sound: such as the ticking clock, sounds of the organ and the lift. Then there is a richer story to be told; the links to the other website need to be clearer so that multiple information can be accessed at the same time. Moreover, after viewing it again, I would like the pictures to be blown up bigger so that there is more focus on the images.
I have considered that audience interaction is key (how Marcus Bleasdale is developing interaction by means of gaming) and that message is in the medium: the map really allows the viewer to see geographically the Kinema’s hidden stories. This is acts as a mashup with maps/audio/visual.
Because of the limitations of Google Maps, I have created a video using screen recordings of the map and overlayed the audio tracking. This is simply to give an idea as to how the map would work, if I had the means to do so. I overlayed the map video over a screen shot of the Kinema’s website. However, on the map itself, in the description boxes under the pictures, there are links to other sites either about the cinemas or what terms mean that are spoken about. Ideally, there would be written intro above the Map saying:
The Kinema in the Woods is a haven to ornaments and equipment sourced from cinemas all over the UK, in this map, click on the pins to find out what pieces came from where as James Green tells you the story. Under the pictures are links to other websites to find out more.
Screenshot taken from http://www.thekinemainthewoods.co.uk
Screen recording made from Quicktime
Map made using Google Maps generator
Pictures and audio: Kate Green CC: BT-NC
Considered points from #Phonar:
- Aaron Guy – audience, usability, multilayers for digital archives
- mashup task/Matt Ford, ambient sounds (clicking) although I would have liked to have had time to record more sounds.
- Trusted source – did research and spoke to right people
- Collaboration – James toured me round telling me what he wanted to talk about
- Distributing a story ‘unknown’ – the stories would otherwise be forgotten
On Monday 11th November I went to meet Jinx Rodger in Kent. Jinx is the wife of the late George Rodger, Magnum co-founder. She was a little overwhelmed to have two new people come to visit, as well as having Carole Naggar and son, Jonathan to stay. However, she was more than happy to let us look at her husband’s photographic archive.
The ‘archive room’ is at the top of a steep set of wooden stairs, which acts as a landing really. Immediately I was in a state of awe. Jinx is extremely enthusiastic about her husband’s work and it is literally bursting out the drawers. Her dedication to keeping the archive and preserving it goes beyond having it filed at home. In the bureau in her bedroom she has a draw full of the diaries George kept during the war. With the diaries Jinx pulled out transcribed versions she made during the 1980s. Although in Carole Naggar’s book she suggests how much Jinx admired George’s practice; but I saw first hand her commitment to his work. It took her six months to type up the diaries- she said that she was the only one that could just read his writing.
The diaries are small with tiny delicate hand writing in. They are exquisite artefacts in their own right.
Although they are embedded with stories and days’ accounts; there is a story of their keep: their transcription and where they live, how they live, in Jinx’s Kent house. If I have time to return to Kent in the next week, I would like to document this story. Talk to her about transcribing the diaries: why she did it (for what purpose). I could use audio of walking up the stairs, opening to bureau etc, to really create a sense of being.
Points to consider:
- think about how our stories/pictures become the landscape (of what people will know/remember)- BE A TRUSTED SOURCE (links to JW lecture 1; Fred Ritchin lecture 2; David Campbell lecture 4)
- we have to understand context to allow us to be communicators of the ‘right’ narrative (links to David Campbell lecture 4)
- process of photography is much different now- the delivery has changed and we must respect how that can change the readings.
I was really struggling with how to make this archival evidence into a solid ‘narrative’. But then I remembered David Campbell’s lecture about how we make sense of the world with narrative. And narrative is not linear. I have also been exploring ways which we should digitise archives so that they are accessible and functional. From this, I have been looking at algorithms: when a photograph is scanned, a computer will not recognise it from its visual value, but from what code it can take from it, such as it’s white balance, hues, dimensions etc; software can then search for similar ‘files’. Our brains don’t work in the same way, so why do we programme computers to read files this way (but that’s a whole other kettle of fish!).
Regardless, ideally, I would like to use a multilayering PLATFORM so that users can click on an image which will have links to similar topics/ readings/ what happened that day / what things mean etc.
As discussed in previous posts I have been looking at the Alexandra Cinema/Theatre One in Coventry and archival information on it. I have decided to make a sort of (haphazard) mashup of how the platform could, sort of, work… We have a map, a video/photo, a dated photo, we can find the year of it by searching the films listed, what are those films, where can I find clips about this. Etc Etc…
I have more I would like to work with and a photofilm I know is not the most appropriate means to do this, however, it helps identify how an online archive could potentially work… We need to make user engagement key to have stories heard and information shared. Watching a photofilm can be very passive and as it is a linear ‘setup’ is absolutely not the idea medium to use to create a multilayered-multidata platform.
A photofilm would be more appropriate if I have raw video/photography with audio tracking to tell ONE story, not to link to other information.
The premises was originally an old coffee house, refurbished into a single screen cinema, the Alexandra Picturedrome in 1917 by Elijah Strong. After Strong’s death, Harold Philpot bought the cinema during the 1930s; the cinema has been said to have experimented with 3D. During the Blitz, the cinema had been damaged, but not destroyed and reopened in the 1940s. During the 1970s refurbishments were made to divide the plot up into three screens. By its latter years Theatre One (changed name in 1970) had a poor reputation with whom it allowed though the doors and was known as a Flea Pit for its poor cleanliness. In 1991 it was sold and refurbished as a nightclub, which closed down only year laters. Since, it has remained derelict; however, in 2011 plans had be confirmed to demolish the site for new student accommodation.
Stories about Theatre One:
1)A friend of mine, a John Francis, was a projectionist at Theatre One (the old Alexandra) in the 70s. I saw “The Exorcist” from the projection room in 1974. I remember one lady getting up from her seat & fainting in the aisle. They had a chair in the foyer for ones like her. That cinema always through its history showed “seedy” films, but also showed the Italian “sword & sandals” type, like “Hercules” films with strong men such as Reg Parks, a famous muscleman, now deceased. He actually helped train Arnold Schwarzenegger if I remember correctly. Steve Reeves was another fit guy in such films. The “Alex” also used to show Nudist films to titilate those who liked them. (Doug Wesley)
2)I know why we called the Savoy the Flea Pit. One afternoon a long long time ago after coming home from the Savoy I sat in front of the open fire getting warm when my mum noticed I was scratching a lot, she insisted on rolling up my trousers to find my legs were infested with fleas walking up my legs. I was not too impressed, I was stripped and put in the bath while my clothes were burnt on a garden fire. Mum was not very happy and after getting dressed I was marched back to the Savoy. She spoke to the Manager and told him what had gone on, he asked me to show him where I had been seated. The chair I had been seated in was infested with fleas and all the horse hair stuffing was falling out. From his account a tramp had tried to make the seats his home, they found him asleep and removed him. We ended up with free complimentary tickets, needless to say we sat well clear of the offending area, to be fair not the cinema’s fault and the affected seats were removed (feel itchy now?). Funny story, on one occasion my dad took me to the Savoy one afternoon (under sufferance I seem to remember), anyway on the way to the Savoy he called into the butchers (Farmers the Butcher) to collect some sausages for dinner later that day. I called into the Savoy Sweet Shop next to the Savoy to get some sweets. We were ushered to our seats, the house lights were dimmed and we settled down to watch the film. I looked over at my Dad who had now opened the newspaper-wrapped sausages and began to suck on one end of a sausage (I can hear you all cringe, but he loved raw beef sausage, testament to Farmers the Butcher I guess). Anyway not long after he had started munching a couple appeared at the end of the row we were seated in “Excuse me” the man said “can we come through” Poor ol’ dad, mouth full of sausage, could not make a reply but stood up to allow them to pass (wonder what they thought). At this point the newspaper holding the string of sausage fell to the floor spilling the contents, he could do nothing to stop it then the couple stepped on the sausage lying on the floor, the sausage split open and was now being trodden all along the aisle (what a mess). Dad was not happy and all I could think of was Punch and Judy,lol. He bit off the end of the sausage he had been chewing on and then gave the couple a right dressing. “Why don’t you people come at the beginning of the film” he said. The funny thing is the cinema was almost empty. They could have picked any seat in the house but they chose to sit in our row. Can you imagine what a laff we had when my dad told my mum. It made us laugh for a long time after. (Radford Kid)
The plans from City Council:
Policy OS3 – Local Area Regeneration
“Local Area Regeneration initiatives will be promoted and encouraged throughout the
City, but with particular emphasis on Priority Areas, in order to… create jobs for local
people; … respond to the cultural and recreational needs of the local community; …
improve and protect the natural and built environment; … and reverse the adverse impact
of traffic on the environment.
• The application site is located within the Hillfields / Swanswell Regeneration area
which is designated in the CDP as a ‘High Priority Area’. We consider that the
proposed scheme does not comply with policy OS3 because:-
a) The introduction of 42 residential dwellings will not create jobs for local
b) the scheme will not respond to the cultural and recreational needs of the local
c) demolition of this landmark building is contrary to the policy of protecting the
built environment; and
d) the introduction of 42 residential dwellings will heighten, rather than reverse,
the adverse impact of traffic in the immediate environment.
• We would favour the retention of this site for leisure / community / commercial
use, which would create jobs for local people, perhaps as a mixed-use development with an element of residential. At the very least the two ‘indicative’
retail units should be conditioned as part of any planning approval. We would
favour the retention, adaptation and reuse of this building, but failing that would
want to see a building of high architectural quality to compensate for the loss of this heritage building
Section 20 – Façade and Interface
Page 36 of the SPG states that “the presumption should be in favour of the retention and
conversion of old buildings of merit, or elements of these buildings, as far as possible.”
• We submit that the former Theatre One building is of merit and should be
retained and converted.
The Theatre One building is one of just two examples of early cinemas that
survive in Coventry. It opened as a Victorian coffee tavern in the 1880s and was
converted into a picture palace, The Alexandra, in 1917 (see Exhibit 4 attached).
It is one of just two cinemas that survive from the First World War (the other
being the Globe in Primrose Hill Street, later the Coliseum and now the Kasbah).
From the early days the owners screened 3D films even as late as the 1950s.
The Alexandra pioneered stereophonic sound in Coventry. After the name
changed to Theatre One in 1968 the cinema pioneered multi-screen using the
former circle as one auditorium, the stalls as the other. In 1974, third auditorium
was added by dividing the stalls into two, long before the multi-screen cinemas of
today. The building has a long and colourful history.
This story from the news paper clipping would be a lovely short piece of spoken narrative to layer over visual imagery. Then having cinema sounds and voice recordings of some logbook notes in between as well. The pieces of evidence will be layered on top of each other and not in chronological order. This nostalgic story will be layered with demolition plans and current imagery with means to help RESTORE the cinema in its former glory.
Points to Consider:
Think about who you’re not speaking to and how best you can communicate to them? ie, gaming & other platforms