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1934: Hospital gets its own cinema

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Soldier operating projector in 1940s in Indiana

Cinema installed at West Hylands, Cuckfield

Treats For the Inmates: Can You Spare a Dime ?

About a year ago Mr JH W. Blundon (Master of West Hylands Institution, Cuckield) visualised the installation of a cinematograph apparatus to provide periodical entertainment for the patients. The project was an ambitious one, as no other institution of its kind administered by the East Sussex County Council possessed a cinema.

Anyway, Mr Blunden set to work to collect funds, and friends in Cuckfield and beyond came to his aid. One of the staunchest of them was Mr J Van Koert, the proprietor of the Broadway Cinema at Haywards Heath. He allowed collections to be made at his cinema for Mr Blunden's fund, and so freely did patrons subscribe that the sum of £35 was raised. Thus was the realisation of Mr Blunden’s ambition assured!

Patients loved the show

On Wednesday owning last the apparatus was used, and it would have done the subscribers' hearts good to see the delight of the inmates of the Institution as they watched the show.

Privileged visitors included Mrs Stride and Mr WE Mitchell (members of the North Area Guardians' Committee). Mr J Van Koert, Mr Cooper (Manager of the Broadway Cinema) and Mr P G Ladbrook (Master of the Uckfield Institution).

Cutting edge technology

All were greatly impressed with the apparatus, which consists of two Kamm projectors fitted with Calee arc lamps, these being situated in a fire and sound proof box at one end of the dining hall. Red and green electric light bulbs over and on the stage give an effective colouring to the edge of the screen, and Mr Blunden's radio gramophone provides the incidental music.

Prior to the performance, the cinema was formally opened by Mrs Stride, who was introduced by the Master as having done wonderful work since ahe had been a member of the Guardians' Committee.

Mrs Stride said she was very pleased to be present to see the new cinema in operation, and she hoped it would provide them with man}’ pleasant evenings. Its provision was due in a large measure to the Master, who had aroused the interest of people sod collected some of the money. (Applause). Thanks were also due to Mr Van Koert and the patrons of the Broadway Cinema for so

Magnificently responding to an appeal for the fund to provide the operating box. Mrs Reid, Miss Campbell, Mr Patrick and other friends had also Kindly given individual 'donations, and thanks were due to them. (Applause). Mrs Stride also thanked the Institution House Staff for raising the funds to provide the apparatus in the first instance and finally for working so whole-heartedly they had to thank the County Cotnoi for permitting the apparatus to be installed. She had much pleasure in declaring the cinema open. (Applause).

Mr Blunden, in thanking Mrs. Stride, said the audience would all be interested to learn that the Institution was the only one of its kind in East Sussex to have its own cinema. They were only installed in the largest institutions in the country. So they had achieved something at Cuckfield of which they could be proud. (Applause).

His dream of the future was that they should go from strength to strength and ultimately install talking films. They would, however, get a lot of amusement out of the silent films. These had an advantage, as all of them could read but many of them could not hear. The cinema undoubtedly marked a progressive step in the provision made for their entertainment, and is hoped they would appreciate it. (Applause).

Opening programme

The programme opened with a Bonso Cartoon, followed by 'the big picture,'' a comedy-drama entitled 'The Sky Skidder'. 'Beans Ahoy,' a comedy, brought the first performance to a close, and it was obvious, by the frequent outbursts of laughter and applause throughout the show, that the patients had found a form of entertainment which will probably do more than anything else to add brightness to their lives.

Mr J Thomas, the chief operator at the Odeon Cinema, Worthing, was in charge of the apparatus, assisted by Mr Leslie Reid. Mr Harold King operated the gramophone, and the records of popular old songs were just to the liking of tne audience.

Mr Blunden informs us that it it proposed to run a show two nights a week, commencing in the autumn. He has a small balance to defray the cost of film hire for a short period, but be proposes to open a maintenance and hire fund, which it is hoped to augment by dances in the Institution and by outside efforts. The County Council are not able to make any grant towards the cinema. So if you can see your wav to send Mr Blunden a contribution he will he more than grateful. It is never amiss to he kind to God's poor.

Mid Sussex Times, 1 May 1934

Photo: A soldier operating a movie projector at one of the six theaters at Camp Atterbury, Indiana during World War II. Wikimedia public domain image.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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