The Northwick Cinema, Art Deco Ladies.

It was standing room only the first time I set foot in the Northwick. I was about five years old and had just moved to a house in the street behind the cinema. The film playing that night was ‘The Dambusters’. The seats, approximately one thousand one hundred of them were all taken and I stood at the back with my parents trying to see through a maze of grown ups legs. Now and again I was lifted up to see a blinding white screen full of roaring planes. The air was full of a thick blue haze of reeking woodbine cigarette smoke. It was magic!

From then on I went to the Northwick at least once a week until it became a bingo hall in 1996. The exterior of the cinema was of a rather plain utility  brick Art Deco design, but inside was another story. It was a beautiful example of Art Deco theatre design throughout designed by John Alexander and 0pened in 1938. On the splay walls at each end of the screen were three semi-naked ladies. they each had a gauze like scarf and uplifted coiled hair. They looked like they were in some kind of vessel or on a staircase which was shell like with Art Deco curls and swirls.

Northwick Cinema interior, with the three art deco ladies. Courtesy Kevin Phelan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevp/. Original photo copyright David Atwell, from the book “Cathedrals of The Movies”

I remember lots of peachy pink and gold colours and dramatic amber lighting which became  a deep plum as the cinema light faded for the show. Because the Northwick was in the north suburbs of Worcester a lot of rerun and obscure films made their way there and I got a great education in film. When I was younger I saw lots of kids films and musicals, but later on there were many noir films, Orson Welles and Sidney Lumet, and other films which did make main stream. I think I saw every Hammer Horror film there as well. The Northwick closed in 1966 showing ‘The Silencers’, with Dean Martin and ‘The Arizona Raiders’ with Audie Murphy. I was not there.

In the 1990′s the cinema was renovated and John Alexander’s beautiful work restored. There were plans to demolish the cinema in 2003 but these were overruled and the Northwick is now an antiques centre.

I discovered the Northwick again on the internet and saw the interior again for the first time since 1966. To say that the Art Deco ladies had made an imprint on me is an understatement, I can see them in so much work I have done.

One of three T-shirts I designed in 1978. The T-shirt is long gone, and the perm is cut away. Goodbye 70′s!

Design for Biba beauty parlour, Steve Thomas Kasia Charko

Biba food hall grocery bag

6 comments

  1. [...] at first by an old Art Deco cinema around the corner from my house when I was a kid.  You can see a photo of the interior on my first blog.    Those three Art Deco ladies certainly made an imprint on me.   I did not [...]

  2. Your work for Biba was iconic and I was really happy to come across your blog

  3. Thank you ruby foot.

  4. Nick T · · Reply

    Are you Kasia Charko fro St Stephens?

    1. yes thats me, St Stephens, happy memories.

      1. Nostalgia bomb, time warp and inquietude.
        I rarely lose sleep over anything I read on the internet, and even more rarely feel inclined to comment on anything I do read; however I was nuked into the past and mobbed by memories after reading some of your blog.
        I remember your arrival at St. Stephen’s very well; you were introduced as I am quite sure it wasn’t the beginning of term. It is strange how unusual occurrences make their mark. Yes St. Stephen’s was a nice school, and it is so easy to remember irrelevant things like the name of the janitor – Mr Berry – I don’t know if it was his real name or whether it was because he wore a beret, and the holly bushes by the “bars”.
        Your Saturday job memories opened up another window. My girlfriend went to the Grammar School and I know their policy on pupils working, and the image of a boater, blazer, and tie wearing Grammar School girl metamorphosing into a “shop-assistant” must have sorely vexed some of the teachers (the female ones at least)
        The Victoria Institute references also unlocked deep cover recollections. One shilling lunch tickets, and the half underground refectory where the food wasn’t that bad when catering students were experimenting. I actually learned lot from a kindly teacher Mr Green(something or other). He didn’t need to say a lot, but managed to subtly infer that what I had drawn wasn’t up to much! It’s a technique that I admire in teachers and I try to use it myself but more and more it is necessary to spell it out to self-obsessed students with no inherent skills.
        Finally, I remember buying an old BSA 350 from your neighbour? Boyfriend? Close to the Ombersley road.
        Just one more thing, I remember the Northwick becoming a Bingo hall and the manager was Chris Minton. Thank goodness it is a grade II Listed building now, it would have been a sad loss!
        Nick Taylor
        Lisbon
        Portugal

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