The club was founded in the spring of 1989 by a small group of film enthusiasts who wanted to give local people the opportunity to see non-mainstream films without having to travel to The Brewery at Kendal or The Dukes at Lancaster, trips which involve round journeys of fifty and eighty miles respectively. Gwynneth Walker made contact with the Film Society Unit of the British Film Institute and was advised to talk to the owner of the Roxy Cinema, Andrew Sail. The Roxy Cinema at that time only opened from Friday to Tuesday weekly, the bingo hall on the ground floor providing its main source of income, so Andrew was happy to let the Club use the venue and its 35mm projector to show films on Thursday nights. Gwynneth and a group of friends (Robin Hutt, David Martin, Sue de Gruyther, Sarah Braddyll, Geoff Medland and Chris Whinnett) formed the first committee, organised the programme and publicity with the help of the BFI’s Film Society Unit, and the first film, Babette’s Feast, opened the season on 14th September 1989.
In 1993 the Club competed against 340 others for the title Film Society of the Year. It reached the final sixteen and was awarded a Special Commendation ‘for bringing quality programming to an existing commercial cinema in a rural area and developing audience numbers’. The Club has consistently had over one hundred members and some have served on the committee for many years, one particularly notable member being Joe Senogles, who was Chair, and then Vice-Chair, from 1991 to 1996. On the Club’s tenth anniversary several of the founding committee members were still serving, the committee then consisting of Chris Whinnett (Chair), Marion Leslie, Phil Evans, Sue de Gruyther, Ginny Moss, Tom Bradley, Robin Hutt, Geoff Medland, Dave Slater, Jeannie Sutherland and Lynne Thomas.
The 1998/99 season also marked a change in the programme format, from a folded single sheet of paper to an eight-page booklet, although full-colour only replaced monochrome in the booklet in 2006. Committee member Wendy Rowe’s artistic eye was responsible, over many years, for making the Club’s programme and publicity posters visually exciting, which has helped to keep the Club’s membership figures healthy.
Robin Hutt was a stalwart of the Club, and was then Chair for several years. Marion Lesley bravely stepped into the void created by Robin’s sudden death in 2007. By 2011 membership numbers and attendances had fallen, and Marion handed over to Dave Kyles.
In 2006 Charles Morris, an enthusiast who runs several northern cinemas, took over the management of The Roxy. Charles has continually supported the Film Club.
Another milestone was reached in 2013/14, with the Club’s 25th anniversary. To mark this event, Babette’s Feast opened the season, as it had done in 1989. Members were given the opportunity to choose their favourite film from the first quarter-century of the Club, and voted for Cinema Paradiso.
By 2018 the committee consisted of Dave Kyles, Trish Tyson, Rosie Kyles, Martin McDonald, Glenn Lang and Coline Maillard. Over the years committee members have come and gone, but the Club has always found a reliable core of enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers who have coped with occasional difficulties, such as those caused by the recent change from 35mm film stock to digital, and come up smiling. Membership numbers are currently over 160 and our audiences have been enthusiastic about the films we show. We hope the Film Club at the Roxy will continue to flourish for many years to come.
Glenn Lang, March 2018.
Update June 2019: Jasmine Aldred and Mark Pickstock have joined the committee, and sadly Martin McDonald and Coline Maillard have stepped down.