In Conversation: Felicity Beckett, 2010

Interviewee:  Felicity Beckett

Interviewer: Christina Reading

Date of Interview: 31 March 2010

Felicity is the current Deputy Manager at the Duke of York’s.

Memories of the Dukes

“We would always come to Brighton on holidays so my connection with the Duke of York’s started very young. My earlier memories, sort of when coming here, were when I was fourteen, fifteen and seeing amazing films here like Razor Head, Scarface which was 18 restricted. That was the early eighties when it wasn’t owned by City Screen and you could get in with a bus ticket. I’m sure we paid some times, but it was a little bit slack there. You were able to smoke anything you like in the auditorium. It wasn’t the venue to come in with the parents, no!

Me and my mate Gabi we would come in and just see all sorts of amazing films. In a way I just think what an education in films and I loved the cinema. I romanticised about it all the time. I went to University in Canterbury. I had tried going into Sussex actually, I didn’t get in there and I went to Canterbury and did film studies there. I’ve always loved films and I’ve always been absorbed by them. And when people say when I’m watching a film on telly, for instance, they cannot get my attention. I’m completely enwrapped. Watching films in the Duke of York’s was the most romantic setting you could imagine for cinema. I loved cinema as an experience and I think great cinematic films, no matter how many DVDs or special features you put on the DVD, it has to be seen in the cinema.”

“I think when I was younger it was the edginess of it – it was dangerous.  And getting away with stuff that was really cool and that’s the other thing about my cinematic experience that took me completely out of the ordinary and putting me in another world.

It is something you cannot get in main stream cinemas in any level, you don’t get that full sensual feeling its just about looking at the picture where as coming to the Duke of York’s and cinemas like it is like stepping into another world.

The first film I have ever saw I remember it so well. I was four, it was ‘Dougal and the Blue Cats’. I was just completely consumed by it. It was a passion that struck me first from start. And I am not particularly interested in making films or anything like that. I just love to watch them all the time. I can watch a film every day.

Selection of Films

“We started showing a bit more mainstream films like Bond here a couple of years ago, and it was a perfect setting for a Bond film. I think it does add something to it.”

“I always lived and worked in London and about ten years ago, I decided to go to Brighton. I gave up my career that I had in London and I just thought my dream job would be to work at the Duke of York’s. And there was an opening for the kid’s club coordinator job, and I was a children’s entertainer so I was just like that’s my job. I knew that I would get it. It had my name on it. That was in February 2003. It was only for Saturday mornings so I had to get other jobs, so I worked at the Dome.

At the time, we showed quite a lot exotic films from around the world for kid’s club, which we don’t seem to do that much anymore. I remember we showed an Iranian film The White Balloon which was almost silent it didn’t have a lot of dialogue. And everyone was thinking that the kids will hate it, but they loved it, completely in trance in fact.“

Who used to decide film programme?

“It was a person who programmes from head office and I think it was Jason Woods. We had African cartoons, Indian cartoons as well, lovely Indian silhouette and we certainly haven’t showed them for years and I think it changed in terms of a programme coordinator who does all the cinemas now and it’s like a chain that goes throughout all the Picturehouses and we are much more art house cinema than the other city screen cinemas. We have been a bit more mainstream for kids at least. You can’t pretend the fact when we show a Disney film for instance, we sell out. “


“I think one of the main thing of being a manager in general is like an emotional intelligence.  You have to be fully aware that you are looking after a building with three hundred people and you are very much in charge of all of that and also with all your stuff. So really the training in total was how to cash up, all sorts of admin stuff, the rest of it you just learn on the job pretty much, how to deal emotionally with customer service. We do have a specific type of clientele that have been coming here for years that are incredibly loyal membership. We are held in such great affection in the hearts of Brighton. Even if they haven’t even been here they still feel strongly about it and about the building and it really show when we had to raise money for our roof. The outpouring of love was so overwhelming. “

Cinema’s Roof

“At the time the 95 year old state roof had just had enough. It was 2005. The whole project was £90,000 and we had to raise half of it, Cityscreen would pay the rest to mach the other half. We did it with screenings and we sold the seats and we got lots of plaques on the seats. There were some really moving tributes to people, and they were on the back of the seats.

There were such moving stories of people who just come in and tell us why were they buying the plaques. There was one particular woman, Mrs. White, she met her husband here, she was an usherette and he was a projectionist in the 50s. And he died and she bought a plaque for him. It meant a lot for them to do that. It cost a hundred pounds.

Felicity admits when she is employing people, she tries to find characters that could represent the cinema in its best form

“At the moment we have 30 staff. They are all part time staff, and they are all students, musicians, actors and actresses. They’ve all got really lovely fascinating lives that they are pursuing on their own.”

Digital/Analogue Projection

“Its much less touchy feely, much less feeling of accomplishment in a way but there is a certain complexity in it. You have to load the drive you have to put the key in the drive. It’s got its own set of rules and regulation.

It is lovely to do 35 mm. We had a screening recently of Alien and we had the original 35 mm print and it was crackly, it was jumping, it was really awful in some places and people loved it. They just loved that it was a 30 year old print and there was an authenticity to it. I think in arts people just love authenticity.”

Art and Cinema

“Its something about the building. Whenever I walk in to it I feel quite lifted by it. I think the building is a work of art. So its like for me, it’s like working in Venice. Everywhere you walk around you are surrounded by art. Even though it has its mendacity every day is not the same.”

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