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John Stratton: Queueing at the Everyman

Posted February 2024.

John is a retired railwayman and cinephile who has been a Hampstead resident since 1966. He was a weekly patron of The Everyman until the new chain took over.

I first discovered the charm of Hampstead as a teenager on a bike, and resolved to live there as soon as I could afford to leave home in the boring suburbs of North London.   I eventually achieved my ambition and moved into a rented flat in Gayton Crescent in September 1966, just off the High Street and very close to the Everyman.

In our twenties we – as suburban dwellers – were all aware of the charms of the area, passing through from Central London on the way home to Barnet, stopping off at the Coffee Cup in the High Street and making excursions to the Everyman.  Parking then was not a problem.  To me Hampstead meant two things – the Coffee Cup and The Everyman.  Once I had moved in, it was joy to be so close and during the time of Fairfax-Jones’s management, with or without friends, I saw all the Marx Bros and Laurel and Hardy series many times, was introduced to Ingmar Bergman, the French Nouvelle Vague – Godard, Truffaut etc – and many other art films, and the German Expressionist style, including the famous Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

Admission was very cheap – I seem to remember paying something like 2/3d although that  could well be wrong.    I have strong memories of queueing outside for a film, from the entrance up the alleyway, around the top and back down the other side of the street and the nervous anticipation when Fairfax-Jones came out to count the number in the queue – would we get in or not?   When his arm went down, that was it, the remainder of the disappointed queue sadly dispersed to try again another time.   It was a real ritual, a game of chance, and proved how popular the Everman was at that time. Other memories include waiting in the crowded foyer Art Gallery to be let in  – all part of the ritual.

Presumably at the behest of Fairfax-Jones, to protect the punters waiting patiently in the rain outside, a long canopy was latterly erected alongside the wall where the queue stretched up the street.  It is noticeable in the website pictures this did not exist in earlier days.

More recently when the latest management took over, they closed up the entrance with steps outside in the street, and made the entrance under the archway.   Since then, not only did they double or treble the prices, introduce unwanted luxury seats, waitresses to serve cocktails etc. but took over the Screen on the Hill at Belsize Park, the Screen at Baker Street and many others, all the admission prices being greatly increased.  Despite furious letters to the local press protesting at the price hike, the new management remained adament and my letter of protest was met with a complimentary ticket but nothing else. I have not been
back since, with one notable exception – the documentary about Jill Craigie, film maker extraordinaire, strong Socialist and wife of Michael Foot MP, living locally in Pilgram Lane.

Hampstead will never be the same again.

John Stratton