Sunday, 1 May 2016

Down at Parrs Wood, deciding on a film, a meal or a game of bowling just a tad different from a half century before

The Parrs Wood entertainment complex slipped in while I wasn’t looking.

The Parrs Wood complex, 2014
Now given its size and the fact that it has been there since 2001 that I agree is pretty staggering.

But in my defence I didn’t often travel down to east Didsbury or if I did it tended to be only as far as the old college opposite the two pubs.

So the first time I saw the huge complex was around 2004 on one of those buses taking the scenic route from Chorlton to Stockport.

Not that I am sniffy about the place, we use it a lot given that it is just down the road and offers free parking.

Parrs Wood Court, circa 1939
But it is big making me wonder what the people in the houses opposite think about the complex and the huge car park area directly in front of their homes.

And that got me reflecting on the reversals of entertainment history.

Originally the two Didsbury cinemas were in the centre of the village and off towards Burnage and both like so many other picture houses closed as fewer people wanted to sit in the dark with a shed load of strangers.

But the new cinema complexes offer more both in the variety of films they show and the degree of comfort.

That popular description of many old picture houses as flea pits was not so far off the mark.  Some of the very earliest might well have smelt of disinfectant and the one just behind Chorlton Road a little up from the old Imperial was indeed a home for fleas given that it was beside the old tramways horse stables.

All of which makes the modern cinemas a cut above their predecessors.

But I do miss the Odeon, the Regal and the Gaumont built in the 1930s and marking in their time a new era in cinema going.

Some like the one on Chester Road in Stretford was built with air conditioning and others could boast a bar and all were magical places with their lush carpet, grand hall ways and thick velvet curtains.

These were places a world away from the often cold and drab homes that many left to escape into a world of Busby Berkley, Fred Astaire and Gone with the Wind.

All of which I was reminded of when I was at the Plaza recently in Stockport.  This was the grand design of entertainment and maybe Peter will compliment his painting of Parrs Wood with one of the Plaza.

Until then I suggest you go looking in Didsbury Through Time, which describes in words and pictures the Didsbury we have lost and that which has replaced it.

Painting; Parrs Wood Cinema complex, from the series East Didsbury, © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


*Didsbury Through Time, Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson

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