It’s hard to believe
That this is the place
Where we were so happy all our lives
Now so empty inside
And feeling no pain
Waiting for a hammer, and a big ball and chain
They can tear it all down
And build something new
But only I remember what was here
WHILE doing a bit of online research for a larger project, I stumbled upon a picture which brought some long forgotten memories tumbling back into my consciousness.
The photo was of an old building – the Gala Bingo Hall in Portland Road, Hove. A gorgeous art deco structure which is now sadly demolished.
Plans to turn the former bingo hall site in Portland Road, Hove, into 35 flats and a doctor’s surgery were approved in October 2010.
The bulldozers moved in, in April 2013 and the new development work was completed last year (2015).
So why should I care?
After all I have never played bingo or had any fascination with bingo halls.
It is something much deeper.
The reason why I care is simple… before the building became a bingo hall it was an amazing cinema – the ABC Capitol.
And that cinema was a key part of my childhood.
Not only does it hold fond memories of my late father taking me to watch blockbuster movies such as Tarzan’s Three Challenges and Robinson Crusoe, but something much more.
From about the age of eight-years I would meet my best friends Mark and Michael Newlove at the end of our road at 9am every Saturday morning. Together, as loud primary school kids we would catch the number 26 bus from Mile Oak – our village tucked away on the South Downs – to a bus stop next to the cinema in downtown Hove.
Then, in a childish rite passed down by older peers, we would cross the road and enter a small joke shop. With a few pence clenched in our sweaty palms we would buy a box of small stink bombs or a cache of itching powder before crossing back to queue at the ABC Capitol.
We were fully fledged, excited and paid-up Minors of the ABC!
With bubbling anticipation we would make our way to our usual seats in the cinema’s upper circle and lose our imaginations for two hours in fun cartoon features and a kids’ adventure movie – either a sci-fi romp or a swashbuckling battle between pirates or medieval knights.
This Saturday ritual was of its time and now quite timeless – the magic of a childhood gone forever.
Oh, the stink bombs and itching powder… they were for throwing over the balcony onto the poor souls below sat in the stalls!
Sadly, according to archive records, the conversion from cinema to bingo hall in the 1980s ripped any soul, or semblance of cinema’s heyday, out of it. The interiors that had once been quite grand, had been replaced by tacky stucco and a suspended ceiling.
And now it is no more.