At Platt Chapel the Society held two shows - in the afternoon and evening, fortnightly at first, and then monthly. Most of the great films, old and new,were shown here for thirteen years. However, times were changing. The advent of films on TV and the doubtful joy of spending Saturday evening in a cold chapel sitting on plastic chairs on an unraked floor finally took its toll and membership declined. It was on the cards that the Society might have to fold, but at a Special General Meeting, by a mere handful of votes, the members decided to carry on. John Grieve, our present Secretary, was of the opinion that the nature of the venue was proving really unattractive to members, and after much searching and negotiation, MSFS finally found an excellent venue in the Club Theatre in Altrincham in 1998 (now renamed as Altrincham Little Theatre).
Once again committee members hauled the 16mm equipment to new premises. The Society continued to have two shows, until it was decided this was no longer financially viable and the afternoon show was dropped. When Tom Ainsworth’s health declined and he found projecting increasingly difficult, he provided the means to purchase a VHS and DVD projection system, which has now been updated to take advantage of Blu-Ray format. A new, larger screen has also been installed. This new equipment, along with the raked seating and the comfortable facilities offered by the bar (together with the invaluable support of the Little Theatre’s officers) have all led to a huge increase in membership and much more direct participation by members. Our numbers have steadily risen and now stand at over one hundred and thirty, thereby helping to ensure a stable future in an established, well-equipped, and very pleasant location.
Platt Chapel Fallowfield
two new homes - for much longer
Tom Ainsworth being presented with the BFFS Charles Roebuck Cup by actor Tony Curtis in 1987, in recognition of Tom’s services to the Film Society movement.
Marjorie Ainsworth and team arrive at Platt Chapel, carrying seat pads, film reels and refreshments, to prepare for the evening film session (c 1997)
By 1960, however, the glaring shortcomings of the Green Room as a venue were beginning to exasperate the membership. By chance,Tom and Marjorie, members since 1939, also had the good fortune (for the Society) to be members of Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society (“the Lit and Phil”), a distinguished learned society of long ancestry. Following wartime damage to their building, the Lit and Phil were moving into new premises, and the Ainsworths realised that this could be an excellent opportunity to upgrade the Society’s facilities significantly. Tom knew that a projection box and screen were being proposed for use in the main lecture theatre. He suggested that the MSFS would be happy to install their 16mm projectors in the new projection box and to provide projectionists for any organisation which hired the venue and needed to show film. In exchange the Film Society would be allowed to use the main lecture theatre on Saturday evenings at a reasonable cost. This happy arrangement lasted for eighteen years from 1960, when the new house was inaugurated, until 1978 when the building had to be abandoned on safety grounds, as it had been built using high-alumina cement.
The arrangement was by no means one-sided. Committee members helped to paint the walls, remove the old pews and generally fix the place up. There was no toilet, and no heating yet the remaining members from the Lit. and Phil days proved steadfast in their loyalty. Things improved slowly. At first it was discovered that only sub-titled films could be shown, since, owing to its acoustic echo, the high-arched ceiling made English dialogue unintelligible. This problem was solved by the installation of a flat plasterboard ceiling with better lighting. And then a fire, set by burglars, resulted in smoke damage to the screen which had to be replaced, and officers of the committee valiantly set to scrubbing the seats so that members would not soil their clothing and perhaps sue the Society into bankruptcy.
ups and downs at the Chapel - and after
It was panic stations again. A new venue had to be found quickly for the coming season. Tom Ainsworth heard on the grapevine that the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society had had to vacate their home on Lower Mosley Street and that they had purchased Platt Chapel in Fallowfield. Once again he assisted in arranging for the construction of a projection box in which to install MSFS equipment in return for favourable rental fees for the film shows
Way back in 1930 those earnest young men outside that Salford cinema could never have imagined that their brainchild would still be around more than eighty years on, still showing engaging and challenging films, and still getting people talking.