Interviewee: Sue Roe
Date of Interview : 26 July 2010
Sue initially arrived in Brighton to study for a masters degree.She was aware of the Duke of York’s Picturehouse almost immediately as she lived in the area – Claremont Road. She says it was in the culture and would come often.For Sue, cinema-going was an important and regular part of her social life. Within her masters class, where she studied twentieth century literature, there were a couple of film buffs.She remembers how her friendship group loved the Duke of York’s, its atmosphere, and its unusual programme.Sue believes that the district is a distinctive and interesting peripheral one to which the Duke of York’s adds character.
Sue: I remember this feeling of overwhelming discovery that here was a place with some history and character and atmosphere and my group of friends and I were particularly captivated by the double seats in the back row and I certainly had never seen that before. That was the great draw of the Duke of York and also I remember a very, perhaps a bit of a silly detail. The first time I came to the Duke of York there was a ladder and a couple of bicycles propped up against the back row and obviously somebody had been doing something up the ladder or they’d been, they’d arrived here on their bikes and nobody had thought to put them away and it didn’t matter, and that all seemed to be part of it! And of course the coffee and the polystyrene mug and the cake, all of that is quintessential Duke of York. And do I remember or is my memory playing me tricks, an ice-cream lady in a uniform? I think I remember that from the seventies. What else do I remember? Plants, just this feeling that you’ve entered a world, you haven’t just entered a big screen and a chance to buy popcorn. There’s somewhere to sit and chat and that people are sitting and chatting and talking about the film, they’re not just in and out.
Sue believes that there must have been smoking within the cinema at the time.
Vaska: And what was the atmosphere like, when you stepped into the, initially in the reception area?
Sue: Just sort of dark and little, slightly enclosed but all that gave you a feeling as it does in the little Parisian cinemas, of being entirely focused on the film. You get the feeling that people come here because they’re seriously committed to seeing a film, and they have intellectual ideas about the films, they know about them, they come because they’re informed, yes, I think, and also that feeling of a little bit of history being preserved, you know, when you walk into the auditorium, if the curtain went up and it was a vaudeville show you wouldn’t be surprised, you know, it’s got that sense of smallness, and also I think of being a community place, a place for the people, and I think that continues as well with the late night shows, the Sunday afternoon shows, the children shows, I love the idea of the mother and baby shows, you know the kind of under ones can come and see a film. It really is a kind of community place but not in a forced way. It feels as if all of that is organically grown out of what you do here and what you show here.
Sue states that she would have bought her tickets on the spot – not in advance. She remembers there being some long queues, in particular for ‘Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday’. This is a special memory for Sue where the film ended with spontaneous applause from the audience. Watching a film in a single screen cinema adds, she believes, a sense of community and communication between people who have experienced the same feelings.Sue believes the Duke of York’s is incomparable as a cinema and likens it to those specialist cinemas in Paris and New York. She adds that the Duke of York’s has managed to broaden the programme whilst maintaining that special feeling.Sue describes the journey starting from outside the Duke of York’s, into the foyer where one buys coffee and chocolate cake, and into the auditorium.She describes the feeling of anticipation whilst in the auditorium before the film proper begins.Sue remembers a time when she sensed that the cinema was screening more commercial, mainstream films until it reverted back to independent, non-commercial films.She remembers on some occasions how a handwritten note by the ticket office would apologise that the advertised film would not be shown because it had not arrived and that another would be screened. She remembers how this did not deter the patronsThough she cannot remember the name of the film, Sue reminisces about a six hour-long film being shown in the eighties.Another memorable film for Sue was ‘Eight Women’ – a French pastiche murder mystery starring the greats of French cinema.Sue’s favourite films, which she has viewed at the Duke of York’s, are ‘Eight Women’, ‘Manhattan’, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, Goddard films, and ‘The Sound of Music’For Sue, the place, primarily, draws her to the Duke of York’s, but so does the programme which she feels is deeply linked to the place and the charm of itToday, Sue would hope to buy her tickets on the spot because she likes the feeling of spontaneity and that the cinema is her local.
Sue believes that the Duke of York’s has a loyal following – a particular clientele who are serious about film. She feels people at this cinema are less likely to talk through the credits, the rustling of sweet wrappers, and noisy children.
Sue has noticed how the published programme has changed in layout and increased in content. She likes the matt cover and feels it has been an improvement.
Sue: I think this has more of the feeling of a living space, where people come to meet and they come to talk and they come to linger and there’s a place where they can gather, and I can’t put my finger on what it is, but it’s definitely got a Brighton ambience. I don’t know whether it’s the balcony, the plants, the colours, I think the colours, this lovely sort of, sort of burnt umber everywhere and with the blue, just the way things are presented, the style, of the way things are chalked on the blackboard in the café, the lady with the stripey legs, and by the way I remember when she arrived, and that was, that was new, I mean she wasn’t always there.
Vaska: So was it a surprise when you first saw her?
Sue: Mmm, when you drove by and you saw this upside down lady on the top, the way the films are advertised in the, in the window spaces. It’s, it’s kind of subtle, it’s got a sort of Brighton organic subtlety about it. It’s very much a Brighton space I think.
Sue believes it would be a tragedy if the cinema were to close and feels it important to preserve our history and culture.
Sue describes the unique nature of Brighton and what makes it a special place and believes the Duke of York’s Picturehouse is very much a part of that.
She believes that there is a real film culture at the Duke of York’s.
Vaska: If you met someone who had never heard of the Duke of York’s before, how would you describe it to them?
Sue: I’d say ‘well you have to go to it, because it’s a part of Brighton, it’s a part of historic Brighton that’s endured. It’s a hundred years old, it’s still got its double seats in the back row, it’s got a coffee, it’s got somewhere you can sit down and have coffee and discuss the film and it’s got a lovely balcony where on a sunny day you can sit on the balcony and watch the world go by and discuss the film. It’s up-to-date, it has a very varied programme of films of all genres, it’s where I saw ‘Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday’, it’s where I saw ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’, it’s where you see the big films early and the little films at any time. If you want to understand film and its place in our contemporary culture, and also really its place in our history, then, go down to the Duke of York’s’