The Tatler presents Chester’s Local News.


It was said at the time the Tatler News Theatre, Chester was built in 1936 that it was probably the only news theatre In England built as a news theatre, others being conversions. The building was run by Chester (Times) Theatres, part of Allied (Times) Theatres and Times Theatres. Their other news theatres were situated in Manchester and Leeds.

Opening on the 2nd December 1936 the show consisted of news comedy and cartoons, and from 1937 local news shot on 16mm reversal film. A camera unit would go locally and film various events and conduct interviews. The 35mm projection equipment consisted of Super Simplex projectors, Peerless arcs and the RCA sound system

The idea to film local events was an idea by Corry W. Fennel, managing director of Allied. The projector was a Siemens machine installed at Chester, later believed to be replaced by a Amprex. To shoot the events an RCA sound camera with variable area recording was utilised and a small laboratory was set up in the Tatler building. Editing was also carried out at the theatre.

Featured on screen at the Tatler. Local boxer, Jimmy Walsh, who was the lightweight champion of Great Britain.

The first 16mm pictures to hit the the Tatler screen were interviews with the Mayor of Chester, boxer Jimmy Walsh and the Queen of the Chester Pageant, all with sound. There were also some silent screenings. This took place in March 1937.

Originally the film equipment was in situ at their Manchester theatre before being transferred to Chester. Fennell stated that the Chester theatre is better placed to bring their experiments to a successful conclusion; the laboratory is there, news is more centralised and weather conditions during the winter season are better than in Manchester. Fennel said in 1937 that careful experiments with 16mm sound on film local newsreels have been carried out during the last eight or nine months, and many prominent people have given screen interviews. These reels have been shown at the Manchester theatre intermittently for the last month or so, but at Chester they will become a regular feature in the programme from January 1938 onwards.

The rather basic projection room of the TATLER news theatre in Chester.

In 1945 a Dr Denis Ward teamed up with Fennell to produce 16mm documentary, educational and interest films. A unit started to function in the autumn of that year. By 1946 the unit was known as the Times Film Company. There were now premises at ten Grosvenor Street, where most of the production was controlled. The unit had five cameras, two Kodak, two Bell and Howell and one Bolex.

I wonder how many other news theatres in the UK screened local content?

DAVID A ELLIScopyright