Allen Pollock is our longest serving usher, having started in 1978, and is a self confessed film buff, watching around 450 films a year. We sat down for a cup of coffee and a chat.
When did you start coming to Plymouth Arts Centre?
I started coming here as a teenager in 1957. Until I left school my parents were quite strict – Saturday morning matinees only. But as soon as I left and got a job, I was off! I’d be at the cinema 4 times a week. There were many small cinemas in Plymouth. Plymouth Arts Centre was one of the places you could see foreign films – Russian, Hungarian, Polish. I remember seeing the Wadja trilogy here, about the Nazi occupation of Poland.
I went from coming to Plymouth Arts Centre occasionally to attending quite regularly in the 1970s, and I was called on to be an usher in 1978. I also used to sit round the table with the film programmers, helping to select the films during the 80s.
What was the Arts Centre like back then?
The cinema was in what’s now the bar area, the seats were long benches, and we sat eight in a row. It was freezing – you came in with your coat on and kept it on! The audience was mainly students, and you had to book a season ticket for five films. The screen was where the bar is now, and the 16mm projection box was in the room.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen here?
There’s been a few – in the early 80s the cinema was built, along with the projection room. After this expansion the Arts Centre changed from having a ‘club’ feel to it to being much more open to the public. The restaurant was opened and coffees and meals were served.
What do you love about film, and what’s your favourite?
The 1950s was a very grey time to be a teenager. My way of rebelling was to wear fluorescent green socks and a bright yellow tie! Films brought life and colour to what was a very drab life for most. I grew up with the MGM musicals, which were pure entertainment, and my favourite film of all time is ‘Singin in the Rain’.
The films I watched here at Plymouth Arts Centre were much more international and cerebral. I love Fellini – ‘La Strada‘, and ‘Nights of Cabiria,’ as well as Bergman, and Hitchcock films like ‘North by Northwest‘. I come twice a week to watch the films here. Recently I’ve enjoyed ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour‘ and ‘Nebraska‘, films where you get emotionally involved.
You clearly enjoy the job – what keeps you coming back?
It’s a bit of a habit! But I do enjoy the social aspect. We’re a good team on a Wednesday afternoon, and it’s nice to meet the customers, whether young or old. It’s good to chat to others who are interested in film.
Interview by Charlotte Beevor-Reid
Digital Marketing Assistant
Plymouth Arts Centre depends on the help and support of our many volunteers, so a big thank you to Allen and the rest of the team. If you think volunteering could be for you, find out more and apply here.