Share your memories of St Albans’ Odeon cinema

PUBLISHED: 15:06 23 August 2011 | UPDATED: 09:17 27 May 2015

CINEMAGOERS of all ages are being invited to share their memories – and those of their relatives – as part of a project on the St Albans Odeon which has won lottery funding.

St Albans Civic Society and local writer Anna Reynolds are behind the community project which will be entitled Odeon Journey and gets underway next month.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £32,200 towards the project which aims to recreate precious cinematic memories from the Art Deco splendour of the Odeon which is currently being refurbished by cinema entrepreneur James Hannaway as the St Albans Odyssey.

The first step will be to invite contributions from across the area which will culminate in a multimedia exhibition at St Albans Museum and the Odyssey Cinema – building works permitting – in 2012.

Anna, who is project manager, said: “Our partners, the St Albans Museum and the Oldyssey, are brilliant venues for Odeon Journey. Thanks to them and to our other partners – St Albans Arts Sports and Health and the two local primary schools, Camp and Mandeville – we know this project will be able to engage with the whole community.”

There was a cinema on the site of the old Odeon from 1908 until it closed in 1995. After a long campaign spearheaded by the Civic Society, Mr Hannaway launched a public appeal to buy the cinema to sit alongside the Rex in Berkhamsted, another former cinema which he renovated.

People will be invited to share their memories and those of their parents and grandparents from next month and a stall will be available in the market on September 10 for them to gather and share their recollections.

Up to 60 schoolchildren will also take part in the project by recreating famous film footage in a performance installation during 2012 to bring the cinematic heritage to life.

“Among other opportunities created by the project, there will be a chance for up to 15 volunteers to receive oral history training too.”

Anna said: “Cinema gives us some of our most magical experiences. We’re thrilled to get the grant and the opportunity to celebrate this building’s heritage.”

Marion Hammant of the Civic Society added: “We’re delighted. The Civic Society campaigned long and hard to save the Odeon from demolition and we’re glad people’s memories of this iconic St Albans building can now have the permanence they deserve.”

Roy Swanston, Heritage Lottery Fund East of England committee member recalled how most people of his generation would remember going to the cinema every Saturday morning for the children’s club and how they would watch Roy Rogers and Laurel and Hardy on the big screen.

He said: “So it is great that the Odeon Journey being created in the old Odeon Cinema at St Albans will begin to usher in a new host of memories of the cinema as it was and lead people to see how cinema has developed over the years since then.”

More information about the project is available at www.odeonjourney.org.uk

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