Cinema films were shown on Shapinsay in the old youth club hut and then the old Drill Hall when rural cinema performances were in full swing. Films shown in those days on the island included such classics as ‘A Town Like Alice’, ‘White Christmas’ , ‘Whisky Galore’ and many of the Carry On series. But it was the movie ‘Hell Below Zero’ which summed up the slight downside of movie going in those days for Shapinsay’s Kenny Meason who says it could be chilly in “the un-insulated under-heated Drill Hall with its hard seats” – though folks didn’t seem to mind, even if it meant wrapping up well and keeping their coats on in winter.
Reminiscing about those Drill Hall screenings Kenny says, “the juniors – us – sat on hard wooden forms at the front but we were nearest the screen and had full vision of the big screen. It was important to absorb the full impact of the Pathe News, not so much for the content, but for the size and breed of the cockerel which would ensure playground conjecture for days to come (it was after all the hey day of Orkney’s egg production!)”.
Jean Wallace was also another regular early cinema-goer on Shapinsay. She and her friends used to pedal along there on their bikes and looked forward to the entertainment despite the often cool conditions. Having attended one of the visits of Scotland’s Screen Machine mobile cinema movies she says “it was luxury by comparison – with proper seats – and it was warm’.
Here Jim Pratt and Kenny Meason tell Dr Ian Goode of Glasgow University about what they enjoyed as young cinema-goers:
Today a strong interest in film continues on the island – as well as annual visits from the Screen Machine new resident on the island Carole Atkins has started a well attended film club inspired by a similar venture in Diamond Harbour in the Canterbury region of New Zealand where she used to live – which sprang up in the midst of troubled times.
It was within the context of the Canterbury region being hit by the Darfield 7.1 earthquake on 4th September in 2010 and the Christchurch 6.3 earthquake on 22nd February 2011, which sadly took the lives of 184 people, that Carole became involved with the film club in her own community. “With many of the theatres and cinemas in the area totally destroyed or out of action due to extensive damage as well as the logistics involved in travelling anywhere due to the ongoing aftershocks and continuing threat of landslides” she explains “folk began to look at what they could provide in their own local area when previously they would have just driven or taken the ferry into town.”
“Community became vitally important in the chaos and uncertainty following the earthquakes”, Carole shares, “the Diamond Harbour film club provided a chance for us all to escape from our daily challenges and to do something ‘normal’. What I liked about the film club was being exposed to films I wouldn’t have chosen myself and watching them alongside other people in the community”.
The Shapinsay film club is held in the Boathouse monthly on a Thursday night and Carole kicked things off with a Kiwi season. Prior to leaving Diamond Harbour, Carole asked friends and neighbours to recommend a favourite Kiwi film which they thought folk in Orkney might enjoy. “I didn’t quite expect the avalanche of recommendations which had me running around like a headless chook trying to find them all before my freight left for Orkney”, she laughs.
The Kiwi season has included a wide variety of Kiwi classics from documentaries to comedy, fantasy to drama, history, sci-fi and the odd thriller. “Kiwi films have a different flavour”, Carole reveals, “they’re often low budget but with a raw quality and quirky, endearing spirit which embraces the Kiwi cultural ‘take’ on things.”