In conversation: Katy Parsonage, 1990’s

Interviewee: Katie Parsonage

Date: of interview  5 July 2010

Katy was born in Brighton in 1980.She has always lived in the Duke of York’s area so has always been aware of the cinema.Her father first took her there when she was 13 or 14 to watch ‘Land of Freedom’. She remembers that smoking was allowed inside which struck her as rather different compared to other places she had been to. Katy sat on the balcony which also added to the unusual cinema experience. She remembers it as quite a treat to go the cinema, and that the film itself was quite grown-up with its political content.Katy started going a lot more when she had left school and started college.

Katy: I do remember it was threatened with closure at some point, and I remember sort of feeling quite sad about the possibility that, you know, it could actually close and then I know that not long after that obviously it didn’t close and it was renovated cos I remember seeing a skip with lots of the chairs, like the old style chairs with the hearts, sort of heart shape chairs, and yeah, just seeing them all kind of stacked in the skip and kind of just thinking, sort of feeling pleased that obviously it wasn’t closing, and obviously it had been taken over somehow and it was gonna still be there, but kind of just feeling a bit sad because I didn’t know how different it would be once it re-opened, you know, it looked like they were kind of gutting it quite a lot and I was just really hoping that they wouldn’t, sort of, change it too much and make it really slick and sort of lose the, you know, the quirkiness.

She remembers that after the refurbishment, the bar was still there. She remembers thinking it looked a little bit more corporate, or slick – that it didn’t look quite so ram shackled.She feels it still has retained the character however and is glad that the frame around the screen has remained, even though she wasn’t so fond of it when she was younger.Katy vaguely remembers that the legs were put on in the early to mid-nineties. She thinks that they put the legs on the wrong way round initially! She didn’t think they were going to be a permanent fixture at the time.She feels that the Duke of York’s is unique due to the balcony, the frieze around the screen, the smallness of the venue in general (e.g. the toilets).Katy thinks that during the 1990s a lot of current releases were shown, though not quite so fast as they are today following the general release date. She also remembers that there were a few more art house films shown and a festival of short films made by local artists.Today, Katy is drawn to the cinema for its programming, building, and location. She thinks that it is perhaps a good idea to show some more mainstream films in order to bring some money in and allow them to show the independent films.

Katy feels that the Duke of York’s makes the Preston Circus area fairly trendy, a little more ‘Brighton’. But it is also a more shabby, busy part of town. She likes that the cinema is in the heart of things at the end of London Road rather than a  posh residential area.Apart from the Duke of York’s, Katy has not really spent time in any of the other establishments in the area – she has found the pubs to be quite ‘rough and ready’.Katy describes the audience who frequent the Duke of York’s as a ‘typically Brighton, Bohemian crowd’. People who are political and socially aware. She isn’t aware of seeing young teenagers go to the films she views.

Katy: I think the Duke of York’s is the only cinema that I’ve been to where someone’s actually, like not just once, and not loads of times, but definitely more than once, kind of, people kind of like to shout things out! Like in response to something, like especially I’m thinking of sort of, you know, political or sort of social comment kind of films, you know, where people just kind of go, like whatever, they say something when they don’t even, don’t agree with what’s been said! And you kind of don’t really, don’t really get that at cinemas generally, people kind of having a conversation with the film.

Recounting a time when a couple were incredibly loud in the auditorium, Katy states that perhaps one feels more independent when at the Duke of York’s – that they are not babysat by the staff as is sometimes the case in more corporate cinemas.Katy remembers a change in the programme during the time she was at university and when she returned. The programme used to be a glossy piece of paper that could be folded into an A5 size and then it was changed into a booklet.She thinks the cinema was taken over twice – she remembers when Picturehouse took over the management of the cinema. She describes the sense of anxiety upon hearing of such changes – for fear that beloved aspects of the Duke of York’s will be altered.Katy has only once bought tickets in advance for a screening.She thinks she has had to queue outside several times for a film with her parents during her late teens and early twenties.Katy describes the journey from outside the cinema to inside the auditorium. She explains why she has always preferred to sit in the balcony.She remembers that the café used to have a clock that was projected onto the wall in 1995 – and that this seemed quite cutting edge at the time! Whilst she has rarely sat in the café she notes that it is a good vantage point for people-watching outside.

Vaska: If you met someone who had never been to the Duke of York’s before, how would you describe it to them?

Katy: Oh my god, I’d probably want to sort of convey its size first, I don’t know, if it’s about the size of a football pitch or maybe even smaller, I can’t really, I don’t know I think I’d want to sort of describe how small it is really, cos I just think, I mean, besides the Duke of York’s, probably the place that I went to in my teenage years a lot more was the Odeon when you sort of meet your school friends in town, and you know, and that’s just so sprawling, it’s got like, I don’t know, eight or nine different, different screens and stuff, they’re usually absolutely huge aren’t they, so I think, I think I’d tell someone that, you know, that it’s got one screen because most people would assume maybe that a cinema’s got more than one. I’d probably just tell them little, just little things, like we’ve talked about, about what’s there like the fact that it’s got the clock which quite often doesn’t tell the right time but it’s quite a nice clock! The fact that it’s got, you know, a balcony, and the little room that you can hire out, I think they’ve still got it like with the big sofa, maybe not a room but you can, the  big sofa that you can hire out for like a special event or valentine’s day or whatever, and sit and watch a film on the sofa. Probably like the cake and kind of the, yeah the kind of history around the screenings that, that are kind of most popular there, like the art housey, independent sort of screenings, yeah, and the legs on top obviously!

Katy describes what the Big Scream is – a weekly screening that allows parents of children under one watch a film with their baby.This age restriction, is, she and her other acquaintances believe, a good idea because some women will be breastfeeding. It also allows new parents to do something ‘normal’ and not worry if their babies are screaming and disturbing other audience members.Katy first started venturing out to the Big Scream screenings when Cariad was three or four weeks old and saw three films that she really loved the following three weeks. She was really excited about it and thought that she would go every week. She found that during this period most of the babies were very quiet, however, after a gap of about a month, she returned to see a film she wasn’t particularly interested in but wanted to go for the social aspect, and ended up really disliking the film and finding that the babies were very noisy.Katy is unsure when she first heard about the Big Scream but thinks it would have come up in conversation when she was pregnant. Ladies she has met with older children have fond memories of going to the event.Katy was very excited to be able to see a film she had wanted to see with a baby. She found it liberating.

Once she has arranged to meet people outside before the screening. On the whole, with her NCT class, she bumps into people she is acquainted with so specific arrangements are not necessary.Katy describes how a member of staff will help out with the buggies at the front of the auditorium. For a long period, Katy wore a sling so did not have the inconvenience of a buggy to contend with!She describes how the auditorium is usually less than half full during the Big Scream and that it is never cramped.For baby changing facilities, there is a disabled toilet on the ground floor that can be used. There may be someone using it, but there is never a queue.

Katy states that once the screening is over, there isn’t the sense that they have to rush out of the auditorium.Katy remarks on how the older babies are more active and need to be watched more and kept occupied. She has seen some babies crawl up the aisle before!Since having Cariad, Katy has found she has gone to the Duke of York’s more frequently than before.She feels that the staff at the Duke of York’s have really thought about the needs of the parents and children.

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