When I was at university, I joined the Film Society. Everyone did because it was a cheap, hassle-free way to see films. They were usually the kind of films that you should like -we were students after all, but there were the odd few good ones that made the membership fee worth it. Sometime in my second year, I realised that you could train to be a projectionist, so I did. I don’t remember exactly what appealed to me about it, maybe it was because it was the kind of thing you just don’t come across normally. I know now that I do like having a go at things so perhaps that’s all there was to it.
It was a surprisingly quick thing to learn. It is a step-by-step process with not much room for going your own way. What could go wrong?
After I left university, some kind of serendipitous twist of fate meant that I got an actual job as a projectionist in my hometown. It seemed like the dream, getting paid to do something it was hard to be bad at. But I’ve never had a job with more jeopardy involved. The student who taught me and the students I subsequently taught did not appreciate that a lamp explosion was a distinct possibility every time you switched it on, for example. Also, it’s not that hard to put the five or so parts the film comes in together in the wrong order. It’s not that hard to forget to switch something on and end up with metres of film spooling all over the floor. None of these things happened to me but they have happened and I did that job in a state of constant anxiety.
But at a time in my life when I didn’t mind having a job with hugely unsocial hours, it was the best job in the world and I have very fond memories of it. So much so, that my next book is based around bringing life back to an old cinema in a town similar to the one where I live, Malvern in Worcestershire. I’ve loved harking back to those days, although when I dug out these photos I took of the place I spent so much time in, I was surprised at how differently it has aged in my mind!