A Memory of the Old Imp - Alan Robinson
|Out of all the cinemas around where I lived the Imperial (or Imp as it was affectionately known) was always my favourite in the 1950's. Ok, so it wasn't as posh as the Ritz at Turnpike Lane or the Gaumont at the top of Wood Green High Road, but I must have seen more films there than at any other cinema. I lost my best conker there once. I used to belong to Christ Church Choir, off West Green Road for a few years, and after a batch of Summertime weddings, for which I got paid about two shillings a wedding, from there I'd pop into the nearby chip shop at the top end of West Green Road, buy a bag of chips and eat them on my way down to George's Toy Shop almost opposite the Imp. I'd normally treat myself to a toy then go across into the Imp hopefully in time for the start of the afternoon performance. If it was a good film & supporting film I would often sit through the program twice so not getting out to around 6pm. On this particular occasion I was sitting in the very front row almost dead centre nonchalantly swinging by conker around on it's string when the conker suddenly became detached from the string and flew up onto the screen and dropped out of sight.
'Christ Church- now demolished - old photograph circa 1911'
'West Green Road - Junction of Stanmore Road (left) and Harringay Road (right)'
|But I've attached a recollection (see below) that I sent to someone in the USA a while back that is a very special memory I have of the old Imp.
|At the time I was working for the BBC (now retired) and one of my responsibilities was looking after the BBC's stock of feature films and I was communicating with a chap in the USA comparing the cinema days of the 1950's in the UK to those over there. I recalled once going to see 'The Smallest Show on Earth' at the Rex cinema there in Station Road Wood Green. If you have ever seen this hilarious old classic film it was about the running of a flea pit cinema. It reminded me so much of the old Imp and what went on there that I simply had to put pen to paper.
One very special memory I have is when my father took me
along to the Imperial Cinema, West Green Road, West Tottenham (that we lovingly referred
to as The Imp) one Saturday evening. It was a smallish walk in off the
street type cinema. Its ticket office was flush to the pavement with Entrance &
Exit doors either side of it. There were glass display cases with advertisements for films
coming up. Usually they put on 'U' rated films during the day, allowing children like
myself to get in on my own. It could be that in the evening the films put on would still
be 'U's, but may have been changed to an 'A' rated film although I seem to recall that
happened on a Friday evening. For one of these films I would have needed to get in with an
adult. For 'X' rated films at that age I was not allowed in full stop. The program if my
memory serves me right changed about three times a week on average. So different films ran
like this Mon-Wed, Thurs - Sat, with a one-off film Sunday evening.
Imperial Cinema & Auditorium-Now a Church
BBC had a vast holding of feature films and I was there when the holding was reduced in
capacity when the BBC decided to scale down its holdings. I returned films that had been
held on lease since the year dot back to all the major film companies. The BBC also held
many films in perpetuity, some of which they deemed they did not need stored anymore,
and I arranged for them to be taken in by the BFI, who could not believe the prints we were giving them..... some films never ever transmitted so as perfect as when they were first canned. I believe they were given with the understanding that if ever the BBC needed to borrow them back it would be OK. It was such a shame that the BBC let them go although the chances were they'd never get shown (too outdated I expect for films the BBC show now!) and there were some fantastic titles in the vaults that I can recall having seen at the old Imp! The BFI must have thought Christmas had come early when I sent them all those films!
| FOLLOWING THE
DEATH OF HIS UNCLE - GEORGE BENTLEY - IN OCT 2014 - ALAN ROBINSON HAS ADDED THE FOLLOWING
NOTES TO HIS MEMORIES
lost my Uncle George at the grand age of nearly 96ys old, I would like to share with you
something he once told me, that I wrote down at the time. I had asked him what memories he
had of the old Imperial Cinema in West Green Road and I think what he told me was simply
Updated - November 2014 to include George Bentley Memories