Preserving the magic of cinema since 1978


Yorkshire Silents

From improving the workshop facilities to being involved with live orchestra screenings for Yorkshire Silents - seen in picture above - it has been a busy year for the PPT in Halifax as detailed in this report from Dion Hanson.

They say that time flies when you are having fun. Well this year has definitely flown by but I’m desperately trying to remember the fun bits. As Susan keeps telling me the only difference between retirement and working is now I don’t paid.
The ongoing project of our preview theatre that keeps being put on the back burner as we keep getting involved with projects that not only earn us money but also raise our profile in Calderdale. This year the tax man caught up with us in that we now must pay rates on Dean Clough backdated to when we moved in. Fortunately, since we are a charity, we automatically get an 80% discount but we get a further 20% if we can prove we are a benefit to the local community. Hence our involvement with Heritage Open Days and helping local cinemas with 35mm projection. Plus, once we can get the archive fully accessible and the ‘Cutting Room’ complete we can offer further facilities to local groups and hopefully achieve 100% discount.
Tom is doing a fantastic job with the archive, I know this because I can now see his desk as most of the boxes have gone from around it and the filing cabinets are getting fuller. However, he keeps getting pulled off to help with other more pressing jobs which have time constraints on them.
The first one we had this year was the ‘Yorkshire Silents’ film festival held at various venues around Yorkshire but the one we did was the opening weekend at the Abbeydale. In which we ran nine films from 35mm silent, Blu-ray, DVD, and laptops. Everyone pitched in and I am pleased to say it all went without a hitch. When I say without a hitch it does not include my dash up and down the M1 to Halifax to get a second pair of silent ratio lenses otherwise the heads of the orchestra would have been in the picture for Friday night’s screening. Thanks to Allan, Tom, Symon, Nigel and Peter. The icing on the cake was that it made £1000 for the PPT.
Every so often at Halifax we get a donation of some more equipment which must be collected, delivered and put away. Which does mean that sometimes we need to let some things go which are duplicated to free up space. The last thing we want is for Halifax to finish up like D Block with equipment just piled floor to ceiling and with no safe work area left.
I am quite pleased with the way our workshop is working out. We have a large work bench, a lathe and milling machine on another bench. Also, we now have an ultrasonic washer, a parts washer, and a wire wheel and buffing machine. For the more stubborn dirt we have the sand blaster. So now when we restore something we can really get to the bottom of it. Even with all this equipment there is space to work on two machines at a time. This enables members to work on their own pet projects without falling over each other as we did in the tiny workshop at Bletchley.
We have pieced together three machines and, although not fully restored, we can see what pieces are missing and now they take up less space when built up rather than in pieces on shelves. They are a BTH, a Kalee 18, and an early Simplex. One of our Vic5s with tower, and Dolby DA20 has gone on long term loan to Curzon Cinemas to give them 35mm facilities at their new site in Oxford. Again a generous donation helped the PPT coffers. We have also been installing another Vic5 that the Picture House Hebden Bridge purchased from the Playhouse Bradford to replace their aged Kalee and they screened their first film Remains of the Day on it early in November. We still have to convert it to run at silent speed ready for a live piano accompanied screening in December. Again several hundred pounds has gone into our funds.
Another project we have been involved with was getting the National Science and Media Museum ready for the Widescreen weekend. This not only involved a consultancy fee but selling various spares and aligning the sound systems for all their various film formats.
The Heritage open days were a bit of a challenge this year in that we had a presence at two venues. The Abbeydale opened their doors for the first time this year and Tom, Symon and Peter covered that. It involved showing the public round the projection room and screening several 35mm films. In all there were three guided tours of the whole theatre culminating in a visit to the box which had to be broken down into smaller parties due to size constraints. There were also two machines on display in the circle foyer which gave the other half of the party something to look at while waiting their turn.
In Halifax, myself, Nigel, and Symon entertained the people visiting the Town Hall with a static display of images and equipment along with videos of local interest. Once again this exhibition was well attended and the films of old Halifax were a great hit. As I said earlier this event helps raise our profile in Calderdale and interestingly this year they approached us to put on the display.
Our last presentation of this year was at the Abbeydale and was a silent screening for Halloween of Battleship Potemkin and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Unfortunately, not 35mm but from Blu-ray, thanks to Allan and Peter for overseeing this event.
However, one thing that has come out of all these projects is that for the first time Halifax has generated enough income to cover the rent. Thanks must go to all our active members for all their efforts, without whose generosity this could never have happened