A glorious blaze of colour

Gaiety Cinema just before demolition
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

An eye-catching exterior

As I remember, queues “a mile long” could be regularly seen outside The Gaiety in Lewes Road when it first opened. The deliberately tall exterior with its several separate squared pillar-like columns bearing neon gas lit tubes of various hues, presented a glorious blaze of colour in the night sky. In fact it could easily be seen from where I lived at the Falmer end of Moulsecoomb, some miles away. When it first appeared, it was such an innovation that we cycled or walked to it to witness its splendour. The odd richer ones caught a 31b Southdown bus from its waiting stop by the island adjacent to the main road round the corner from our house at 34 Newick Road. Things were looking up for some!

Do you remember this cinema? What films did you see? Please post a comment below

Cinema snobbery

About the first dozen front seats cost 4d. The rest were 6d whereas The Arcadia (Scratch) was 3d and 4d. Snobbery was on the way, and kids felt good to say they’d been to the Gaiety. I can remember the first warning signs of an air raid at Brighton whilst in the Gaiety. The screen would suddenly go black and we would all be told that the sirens had sounded. At the beginning, members of the audience were invited to leave if they so wished. Normally nobody did.

It was an education

There was a mighty organ that rose up from the bowels of the stage area with a man playing it as it came up. In those days, kids easily joined each other on the buses in a “sing song” and the same applied to the rising of the organ. It was at that stage that I learned new words for some of the old songs and when we heartily rendered them at home my parents pretended to disapprove. In keeping with almost everyone I knew in those days, Mum and Dad used the odd swear word in front of us so they were more or less stymied. Yes, The Gaiety was part of our education with its Lone Ranger and Laurel and Hardy type stuff. Happy days.

Comments about this page

  • I used to live in 18a Coombe Road, just along the road from the Gaiety Cinema and I remember going to see a large television type screen put on the stage to show the Queen’s Coronation, to see if we could spot my mother, who had camped on the pavement all night in London. Also, on another occasion, when it turned into the Vogue strip club and I furtively went along, I can remember spotting my Dad in the audience when he told Mum that he was going to play golf!!

    By Rod Plassing (06/04/2015)
  • In February 1959, the Managing Director Mr J D Richards offered my father, Herbert, the job as manager of the Gaiety Cinema. At that time the Richards Group included the Picturedrome (Eastbourne) Ltd, Kinema Playhouses Ltd, Gaiety (Hastings) Ltd and the Radio Centre (East Grinstead) Ltd. Herbert started work at the Gaiety on 1st March 1959, taking over from Mr Lovely. He continued as manager after the cinema was acquired by the Classic Group, but left in 1967 when bingo was introduced. Not surprisingly, I used to be given free admission to this cinema while my father was manager. He also arranged for the usherette to give me, and any friend who was with me, an ice cream during the interval. The two usherettes I remember were Mrs Piper (who sadly lost a son in a motor scooter accident) and Mrs Neal (who later ran a guest house in Torquay). There was also a big burly doorman called Mr Massey.

    By Alan Hobden (06/04/2015)

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