As fundraising initiatives and hard graft keep hopes of restoring the old St Albans Odeon alive, plans are also gathering pace for Odeon Journey, a large-scale project featuring oral history accounts, film, video and an exhibition, which is due to run at the Museum of St Albans, from May 17 to September 3. The display will include the memories of people who visited the cinema either to see a film or rock concert or whose families worked there.
The Odeon itself has been renamed the Odyssey in tribute to the late Stanley Kubrick, whose family live in Childwickbury and have given great support to the venue’s sister cinema, The Rex in Berkhamsted. Like The Rex, the Odyssey will one day recapture the grandeur of its art deco heyday and the Odeon Journey project will play a vital part in documenting the many stages of its history.
Anna Reynolds who heads up the project says: “We have now interviewed and taken memories from more than 200 local people, including the great-grandson of the owner of the Odeon between 1911-1926. The owner’s sister used to play the piano for the silent movies, improvising wildly as she had no score and no advance screening.
“Stories like these are invaluable and would disappear without this project.
“Maybe people knew the cinema as the Alpha, the Poly, the Regent or the Capitol? If you, your parents or grandparents have a photograph to share from the past glory of the Odeon cinema, the Odeon Journey team would love to hear from you.“
St Albans schoolchildren have already been finding out what went on in the building through a series of workshops and most recently, the Odeon Journey visited St Albans Town Hall where dancers recreated some classic movie moves for the exhibition, including Singing In The Rain.
The next event is Bring Your Odeon Memorabilia Day and it takes place on Saturday, March 24, from 2pm-4pm, at the Museum of St Albans, Hatfield Road.
“We’d particularly like to see photographs from people inside or outside the Odeon, especially from people who went on dates there,“ adds Anna. “We’d love to borrow any Odeon memorabilia including movie or concert posters for acts such as The Rolling Stones or Cliff Richard, and programmes, ticket stubs or scrapbooks. All items will be returned, unless people want to donate material to the museum.“