East Leeds Cinema Pilgrimage –Searching for inspiration

A week or so back, on a Sunday morning, poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard and I drove into East Leeds to look at old cinemas, as part of our project ‘Cinema Stories’ where we hope to capture in poetry some of the many, many suburban cinemas that used to be in every district of the city. We started at the Regent on Torre Road, now a tile shop and warehouse, and looking out on a very different landscape from when it was first built in the twenties.

My notebook says simply of our journey there,

‘we travel through a seventies muddle of over and under pass
which must have seemed the last word in modernism,
but actually its dying squeaks
. Drink in the deco stucco
of the Star, The Clock, The Shaftesbury for the real thing’.

And as always in mooching around a large old city there are things to discover, things you weren’t expecting, things that startle and the sadness at how things have become shabbier or smarter, or in the case of cinemas in Cross Gates, simply gone.

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We loitered around the Star and The Shaftesbury on York Road and took in how the buildings have changed in use over the years from their original purpose, so again from my notebook,

‘Here’s The Star, now partly a church
which offers healing,
partly gym and a shuttered shop
selling dietary supplements
to angry men who control night club queues,
partly an off-licence but no longer dispensing.
There is much graffiti devoted to Billy
an epic, local figure it seems,
though I have my suspicions
that most of it was written by Billy’


And then just a little later, at the Shaftesbury,

‘Spirits may well haunt the inauspicious Ibiza bar,
the cafes offering full English, the pawn shop DO£H and CA$h,
and the pedestrian bridge’.

Oddly it was the Clock, which we simply drove by, and where I caught sight of the For Sale sign which prompted a complete poem [this month’s Poem of the Month].

But I suppose the biggest discovery, was what I already knew, that going to look and to experience something directly is for me the most potent way of gaining inspiration.