Hello. My name is John Griffiths. I have a background of working in Cinemas and Theatres and have now retired to live in Sidmouth, Devon. This site primarily concentrates on the history of entertainment buildings in Sidmouth and the people who owned and ran them.
The development of entertainment in Sidmouth, from a small fishing village in the early 1800’s to a busy seaside resort, is unusually fascinating. By 1929 the town possessed two large cinemas, one of them equipped and regularly used as a theatre, plus the Manor Hall Theatre, now renowned for its long standing weekly repertory company and annual pantomime seasons. Like other towns in Britain, it hosted a wide range of entertainment in an interesting mixture of buildings, either purpose built or adapted from their intended use. Some of these are still with us, but others lost and are now memories.
During its 200 year history the town has experienced Georgian pop-up theatre, travelling showmen, magic lantern shows, seaside pierrots, silent films, talking pictures, cinerama, theatre, concerts and of course the world famous Sidmouth Folk Festival.
During 2019 I extensively researched this subject, as I discovered that it had not been done before. Previous valuable publications had been written on early cinemas from 1880 to 1914 by Rosalind Leveridge. Her thesis was presented to Exeter University, entitled “Limelight and Shadows”. Also the “Sidmouth Drill Hall” website created by Mary Walden-Till gives a detailed history of this venue. Through Sidmouth Museum and their archives I was fortunate to have my research published in 2020, with a book entitled “Sidmouth’s Cinemas and Theatres”. This is available to buy from the Museum Shop, tourist information shop and Pyramid Books in the town.
I realised how quickly things change and develop on this subject an even since publication of my book, there could now be a new chapter on what has happened since. For instance, the Coronavirus and its necessary lock-down has left a mark on all the town’s entertainment venues and its people.
History cannot change but the present and future will, so I hope in this website to keep abreast of what is happening to existing venues and update accordingly. If anything emerges to add to my original research I will also include that.