Continental Style

I was recently pleased to be able to purchase  an old Nottingham cinema programme from December 1956. The cinema’s name at the time was the New Victoria. It appears to have been known as the Victoria Electric Picture Palace prior to that (it was Nottingham’s first purpose-built cinema when it opened in 1910) and the Moulin Rouge when it closed in 1970. Improbably, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor made an appearance there in 1968 to promote a film.

The cinema’s entrance was on Milton Street, near to the junction with Shakespeare Street and opposite Victoria railway station. The building was later demolished, and in 1996 a plaque was erected to mark the site. Unfortunately, the plaque itself has now vanished, following further redevelopment in recent years. It was one of four allocated to Nottingham by the British Film Institute to celebrate the ‘Centenary of Cinema’, the other three commemorating the Grand Theatre in Hyson Green (‘Site of Nottingham’s first public screening of films’), Graham Greene (who worked for a Nottingham newspaper for a short time) and Alma Lucy Reville (screenwriter and editor, wife of Alfred Hitchcock and born in Nottingham).

It’s great to be able to hold in my hands tangible evidence of one of the many cinemas that existed in Nottingham at the time that the programme was issued, of which the Savoy in Lenton is now the only one still in operation. I wonder who the original owner of the programme was.

The New Victoria seems to have been one of Nottingham’s more upmarket cinemas, and the front cover of the programme that I have features an image highlighting its ‘Continental Premieres’ – the phrase being used in the ‘foreign films’ sense, rather than as a reference to the adult movies that were later to become a feature of many cinemas during their ‘last legs’ phase.

Inside, we are informed that the New Victoria offers ‘CinemaScope as it should be with Four Track Magnetic Stereophonic Sound – Still the Only System of its kind in Nottingham.’ Equally impressively (to my mind, anyway), the programme states that ‘Suggestions which will improve the standard of your comfort or entertainment will be welcomed by the Manager, or direct to the Managing Director, A. R. Wood, Burton Leonard, Nr. Harrogate’. There are certainly a few suggestions that I could make to the modern multiplex chains in this regard.

Another wonderful feature (for the modern day reader, at least) is the local advertising that the programme contains. ‘Male Wardrobe’ is offered by Michael Laurence (‘Your American Fashion Centre’) of 9-13 Goosegate – occupied these days by Ice Nine – and the advert features a photo of the storefront. Much-loved Nottingham institution (sadly no longer with us) Sisson & Parker of Wheeler Gate, resists hyperbole and is content to describe its store simply as ‘large and really well-stocked’. Briddocks (‘The City’s Newspaper Shop’) is another store that is greatly missed by many Nottinghamians, while the mention of Drury Hill in one advert will be guaranteed to raise a reaction from anyone who cares about Nottingham’s history.

How strange to think that items such as this programme, that were so innocuous and disposable at the time, hold such fascination all these years later – as may their contemporary equivalents to future generations.

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for other similar mementoes.


Postcode Palaver

Coming up with a name for this blog (and its companion Twitter page) wasn’t easy. I knew what I wanted the focus of the blog to be, but I didn’t its remit to be too narrow. Nor, on the other hand, did I want it to be too diffuse.

Jettisoned more-or-less immediately was the idea of giving precedence to names that would assist with search engine rankings (Search Engine Optimization, to those in the know). This concept seemed to me to to be something of a sellout and a case of the tail wagging the dog. In any case, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the thought of the blog being a slow-burner. I liked the idea of it growing organically, rather than as a result of pandering to an algorithm.

I also wanted to avoid anything that had already been used elsewhere or that felt too plagiaristic, which, in conjunction with the other criteria, narrowed my options quite considerably.

When the name NG and Beyond finally surfaced from the old grey matter, it wasn’t exactly a eureka moment, but it felt like the right fit. The Nottingham (and Nottinghamshire) connection was there, it seemed original, it wasn’t too obvious or bland and it afforded some leeway for the dipping of toes into non-Notts matters.

One doubt surfaced, though. In my mind, I’d automatically connected the NG postcode area with the county of Nottinghamshire, but I had a nagging awareness that things weren’t actually quite that simple.

Even a cursory look at the NG postcode map confirms that the boundary of the NG postcode area differs quite substantially in some respects from that of the county of Nottinghamshire – in particular a huge bulge eastwards into south-west Lincolnshire.

As well as Lincolnshire, the NG postcode area also extends into parts of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, while Nottinghamshire itself has to put up with cheeky incursions not only from Derby (DE) and Leicester (LE), but also from Doncaster (DN) and Sheffield (S).

Not a perfect moniker, then, but one that ticks most of the boxes. I think it’s fair to say that most people would generally identify the NG postcode with the county of Nottinghamshire and, in any case, some of the landscape features that I’m interested in – railways, rivers and canals, for example – often aren’t any great respectors of boundaries either.

Karlsruhe and Beyond

Earlier this week, courtesy of a Salvation Army charity shop, I picked up (and, indeed, purchased) a book about one of Nottingham’s twin cities, Karlsuhe, which is in south-west Germany.

The book – Karlsruhe: Zwischen Schwarzwald und Rhein (Karlsruhe: Between the Black Forest and the Rhine) – was published in 1984 and is one of those handsome, yet often rather cheesy photobooks that endeavour to present a city in its best light, while sweeping most of its less desirable elements under the carpet.

Full marks, then, to the publisher, for including several shots of the local oil refinery. It’s highly unlikely that an equivalent Nottingham volume would have featured its diminutive Nottingham ‘twin’.

The text in the book is in three languages, including an endearingly bonkers English translation, of which the following extract is just one example:

The joy of living, with which the founder of the city, Karl Wilhelm, a baroque vigorous man, went arm in arm, stood at Karlsruhe’s cradle like a good fairy, with a feeling of affection disposed towards the new community.

Karlsruhe was twinned with Nottingham in 1969, yet before purchasing the book, then having a browse on the internet for the purposes of this post, my knowledge of the place would have fitted on the back of a postage stamp, with a postage stamp-sized space to spare. Other than the awareness that there is an interesting building on Queens Bridge Road called Karlsruhe House and that we have a tram bridge called The Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge, my brain seems to have been largely untroubled by any Karlsruhe-related thoughts over the course of my lifetime.

It would be interesting to visit Karlsruhe and to compare and contrast the two cities and their topographies, infrastructures, histories and significant individuals: the Rhine vs the Trent; Karlsruhe Palace vs Nottingham Castle; The ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art vs Nottingham Contemporary; Friedrich Weinbrenner vs T C Howitt; Karl Freiherr von Drais vs Richard Morris Woodhead; Karlsruher SC vs Nottingham Forest; the respective marketplaces, trams, natural history museums and universities.

Or, what the heck – perhaps even a Grand Tour of all of Nottingham’s twin cities.