Home » Adrian Turner: memories of the Fairfax-Jones Family

Adrian Turner: memories of the Fairfax-Jones Family

Posted by Adrian Turner, December 2021

Adrian worked at the Everyman from 1971 to 1977, initially as Assistant Manager and, after the death of James Fairfax-Jones in 1973, as Programmer. A full account of his time at the Everyman can be found in Guest Blogs. 

In 1969 I saw an advertisement – ‘London repertory cinema requires Assistant Manager.’  I applied and in my letter I stressed that while I had no experience I did have a lot of enthusiasm.  I supplied a list of the last films I had seen and took care to include three or four which could only have been seen at the Everyman.  I think they were looking for someone with the personality needed to engage with the public.

I was interviewed by the Everyman’s proprietor, James Fairfax-Jones, and the manager, Dennis Lloyd.  I got the job and took quite a pay cut.  I seem to remember the Everyman were paying £12 per week. 

Fairfax-Jones, or F-J as everyone called him, was a local solicitor – a commissioner for oaths no less – who just happened to like movies, though he would never have called them by that Americanism.  He had bought the Everyman in 1933, converting it from a theatre and inheriting the name.  F-J was very Old School, posh, with a military bearing, invariably in a three-piece suit, and with a twinkle in his eye.   He lived locally with his wife Tessa in a sprawling house called Manor Lodge.  Next door there was a house with a blue plaque announcing that the Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore had once lived there.  This was in the Vale of Health, a part of Hampstead that was tucked away, hidden from the world.  It was a hamlet within a village within a city.  Beyond it lay the wilds of Hampstead Heath which ran all the way up to Highgate. 

Manor Lodge was idyllic, what I might later have described as Provençal, with a large, slightly overgrown front garden and a separate wing for F-J’s legal offices, or chambers.  The main house was filled with books and paintings.  For some reason F-J took a shine to me and I was invited to Manor Lodge quite often, just for tea and a chat.  He slowly eased me into his world.  I couldn’t believe my luck.

F-J and Tessa had four children.  Tessa herself was quite a large woman and was what one used to call ‘tweedy.’  She seemed country rather than city, like a landowner’s wife.  Although she ran the Everyman’s art gallery, she never struck me as being arty or highly cultured. However, she was a graduate of the Central School of Arts and Crafts and a practicing silversmith. For over 60 years she curated the Everyman foyer gallery and would arrive once a month with the artist and somehow shoehorn the paintings into the Everyman’s fiddly aluminium frames.  From the 30s and beyond she curated shows to go with the film programming, for instance Lazare Meerson’s set designs for the René Clair and Jacques Feyder films; Lotte Reiniger’s silhouettes to go with the shorts, and she showcased the early works of local modernist artists like Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore.  The foyer itself was small but intimate, with a few chairs and a sofa, almost like someone’s sitting room.  The paintings were for sale and it would be up to me or Dennis to manage a sale and put a red dot on the glass.

The eldest of their children was Caroline, followed by twins Martin and Ruth, and Alice, the youngest.  I rarely encountered Caroline, Martin or Ruth but Alice was around the Everyman a great deal since the spacious basement was her own studio where she made home furnishings with splendid silk screen patterns.  Alice wasn’t a hippie but she most definitely was Bohemian in her appearance and her lifestyle.  I thought she was utterly captivating, fabulous, initially an alien, quickly a friend.  She lived in this amazing place in West Hampstead, an artist’s studio that was, more of less, a massive greenhouse which looked like it had been designed by Gustav Eiffel.  It was once used as a movie location and Alice invited me down there to watch the filming.  The director was Don Siegel, the stars were Michael Caine and Delphine Seyrig and the movie was then called Drabble. It was drivel.  But, boy, was that an exciting day for me!  For the first time, I actually touched Hollywood.  

The Everyman staff usually met all the Fairfax-Jones clan at the annual summer clambake held in the garden at Manor Lodge.  It was an interesting occasion, a bit like the Lord and Lady of the Manor spreading gratitude and cheer among their servants.  For some of the usherettes it seemed like the highlight of their year.  And why not?

Manor Lodge, 1950s, Fred Uhlman, Burgh House Collection
Manor Lodge, 1950s, Fred Uhlman, Burgh House Collection