Desperately in need of a job, I walk in off the street and I ask the manager if there is any work going. He shakes his head wearily but then remembers something.
There is something but you wont want to do it…
At first the other cinema workers avoid me – it seems I’ve been hired specifically for a job that no one else will do. In the stillness, after the adverts and before the trailers, I walk down the velvet red slope, my neck straining under the load. I stand to the right of the screen as I’ve been told. High above the heads of the audience is a tiny window where the beam of the projector emerges and next to this is another smaller opening. Lit from above by the brighter lights of the projection box I can see a face peering out into the darkness – searching for me. Satisfied that I am in place, the face bobs out of view. A spotlight lovingly fades up from the blackness to illuminate a nervous young man with a heavy tray of ice creams hanging from his neck.
The weeks pass and the only person who warms to me is the tiny face in the window – the pale features gurning and grinning to distract me from my work and my embarrassment. In the quiet times whilst the main feature is playing, Graham comes down into the foyer – a huge bony man with a broken face and a limp. I take to spending the slack-time up the twisting ladder in Greham’s tiny projection box. We watch Coronation Street on his small TV – heard against the clatter of the machinery and the spooling film.
I go on to work at Screen on the Green for roughly 6 years. The job is terribly paid but it offers some attractive benefits. The workers accept me into a supportive circle of actors, artists and writers, I am educated in film with free cinema entry across London and once in a while Graham allows me into an exotic other world. I’m invited to see Victoria perform in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. The lights dim and a 6ft woman in a red gown steps out into the spot light. Foundation plastered over chest–hair that peeps over her low–cut dress, Graham is the least convincing woman I have ever seen but with the whistling and cheering men, she’s a star.