In Conversation: Joe Tumner 1980’s

Interviewee: Joe Tumner

Interviewer: Christina Reading

Date of Interview: 9 March 2010

Joe Tumner is a talented film producer and director. In his career he has directed and edited around 12 music videos, he has also written and produced six successful films. Joe remembers his days at the Duke of York’s cinema with passion. He said that he knew a lot about it even before he actually visited the place. To him, the Duke of York’s was an exciting experience: he did a video project there  and managed to get a job there afterwards. Today, his own films are screened in the place he started going to, at 14 years of age.

The Duke of York’s Cinema

“I’ve lived in Brighton all my life and I knew about it even before I actually went there. My parents used to go there a lot and they were members. So we used to have the old programme around us in the house that would’ve been late eighties. I was born in 1977.

I remember I went to see Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources double bill, they talked about this place where you could only eat cake and drink coffee and you couldn’t drink coke and eat pop-corn and it seem like this nice and mysterious other place where only adults could go to, but not only like an adults cinema.

The first film I actually went to see was Reservoir Dogs. It was when I was 14/15. I had a couple of tall friends who looked over 18 so we managed to get in. But later we learned that it wasn’t that hard to get in to Duke of York’s underage. It was exciting.

There was a hole in the roof, and there was normally a seat there with a tape around that you would get rained on. I remember people saying that you could actually look up and see the stars, but I don’t think it was ever that bad. But I remember watching the film and seeing dripping.

I was doing a project for the first year of A levels and we had to do a project that referenced cinema. We had a scene in which our character went to the cinema and I think I must been 16 or 17 at that point. So we phoned them up and asked if there is a possibility to come in and film and they said yes. So we went in and filmed and they were really nice and Jimmy or Frank did the curtains for us . We wanted it to look more kind of smoky and my friend Neil lit five cigarettes! And just blew them all. At that point Dukes was still a smoking cinema.

And while we were filming in the foyer I overheard that someone had turned up for an interview of kind of usher job. So after we filmed, I thought I will not kind of play my cards show my hand at this point. But I phoned Laura who was the manager at that time back up afterwards and said thank you for that and said I overheard that you were looking for staff ? And she said yes come in, so that’s when I started working there.

Apart from the work I actually do now, but in terms of various jobs you have when you are a teenager and when you are in University I think it was definitely my favourite.

I worked in other cinemas as well, but it’s unusual because there is only one screen so for kind of half an hour you are really busy and then for two hours you don’t do anything . So I did most of my A level work sort of leaning on the freezer. It was basically before it got revamped. The box office was still where the box office still is. But the food and drink was kind of on the left where the slope is. And there were two glass doors you could go either to the left or to the right. And there was no bar upstairs it was just a bigger balcony.

Everybody else, we were all just doing everything else cleaning, ushering, selling tickets and cake. I met a really nice bunch of people. There was a sense that you could hang out with them afterwards. I was definitely the youngest but it was only a year or so. “


“I think we were probably part of the wave of kids who were going to see films more often and perhaps a more inside cinema was getting more popular and dragging more people in that kind of way. I mean very American indie cinema, that kind of way of early ninety cinema where it was very closely linked to music”.

Joe was studying Media studies – In which he always tried to stay with film

“I was doing media studies, but I was always trying to kind of skew it towards making films. I studied TV and video in Bournemouth. And it is kind of the thing that I do now, I make music videos, short films, stuff like that which was shown at the Dukes. That’s always my favourite place to see it. I had a short film called Hospital Food, another one that I did won an award at Ink Brief encounters down at Bristol, part of the prize was that it got distributed with ‘Me Without You ’ film Anna Friel and Michel Williams which was partly filmed in Brighton. That must have been 2002”


“I’ve met people who worked there after I worked there, but there is something about it in general. I remember someone was saying they were looking at kind of singles ads on the Guardian or something, the amount of people in this area who in their 30 words or less manage to say  Duke of York’s member and that be a thing that like describes who you are and how your life is.

It did used to be very much like, if someone found your wallet and you had a Duke of York membership card, they could kind of picture and get the idea of what kind of person you were. I guess because of the kind of films that they showed there.”

Joe believes  that British cinema at its current state is not as strong as European film

“It is partly that the audience gets what they want, people won’t pay to go and see a lot of art house film. We always quite struggled compared to Europe so it is always difficult to make these films here. That is why you don’t see a lot of British films at the Duke of York‘s. The real hits are normally from out there.”

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