To ‘Save the Cinema’…and anything else, you’ve got to keep going!

I was on my way to the Roundhouse in London to co-present a radio show from the Electric Proms starring Shirley Bassey.  I was travelling with my friend and colleague Alan Thomson, a radio presenter who loved music, and knew his music inside out. As always we were talking about records and the Beatles and writing and recording songs when he turned to me and asked, ‘Do you know what I like about you Mal?’.  I was thinking…is it my piano playing, my song writing or my voice? His reply took me by surprise. 

‘What I like most about you is you never gave up!’.

James Dean Bradfield, Mal Pope, Alan Thomson backstage at the Electric Proms

Sadly, Alan passed away far too young but this week his words came ringing in my years.  Over ten years later I am still not giving up.  Last night I had a concert at The Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen. Next month the diary is starting to fill up and I’m preparing for the release of a new single on 1st March…but it wasn’t me I was thinking about, it was Lorraine King.

The film ‘Save The Cinema’ seems to have been everywhere these past few weeks.  The adverts have been running regularly on SKY.  I even noticed the film being advertised on the hoardings around lots of the Sky Premier league games over Christmas.      

I first heard about the film from Johnny Tudor, my partner in crime on The Mal & Johnny Show podcast.  During lockdown lots of productions had to be cancelled but people are resourceful. As the weeks passed the productions that had been put on hold found new ways to work in a Covid secure environment.  One of these was a film being made in Carmarthen called ‘Save the Cinema’.  Johnny’s wife, Olwen Rees, came onto the podcast to tell us all about the working restrictions before telling us the story behind the film.

Save the Cinema.

The synopsis of the story is that back in the 1990’s Liz Evans, a hairdresser and leader of the Carmarthen Youth Theatre led a campaign to save the Lyric Theatre from being demolished to make way for redevelopment.  After locking herself in the theatre to stop the bulldozers from moving in she finally managed to persuade Steven Spielberg to give her his copy of Jurassic Park to have a Premier at the Lyric in her bid to ‘Save the Cinema’. Olwen went on to tell us that it was based on a true story.

With my concert at the Lyric only days away last Saturday I decided that I needed to see the film for myself in case I could talk about it in my show. Sometimes you don’t really concentrate at the start of a film.  Maybe you’re getting a cup of tea or finding the best seat on the sofa but for some reason I was all settled down when ‘Save the Cinema’ started.  The first real credit I read was ‘Story by Lorraine King’.

That’s strange I thought, I know a Lorraine King and she has done all sorts of things…it couldn’t be her could it?

Lorraine King…third puff ball skirt from the left!

When I say I’ve known Lorraine a long time I mean almost a lifetime.  Back in 1987 she had donned a pink puff ball skirt and sung backing vocals on my Song for Europe Appearance with Terry Wogan.   In the early 1990’s she had worked on ‘The Mal Pope Show’ TV series organising audiences and even performing a Christmas record with a Gospel Choir.

Maybe over the past few years, especially during lockdown we’ve lost touch but every so often we would send a message or comment on a Facebook post.

On Sunday morning I just thought I’d better check again to make sure I had really seen Lorraine’s name. I replayed the start of the film.  It was definitely there.  I looked online at the IMDB website, the Filmmakers Bible.  Again, the credit was there, but there was no forward link to which Lorraine King.

I was in a bit of a quandary, if the story had been written by a different Lorraine King my Lorraine King might be disappointed if I told her.  On the other hand, if it was my Lorraine then I wanted to say well done etc. In the end I thought there’s only one thing for it, send her a text.

The message came back pretty quickly, not much background information, basically just a yes.  I wasn’t having that. I wanted to know the full story and I knew ‘The Mal & Johnny Show’ podcast would be the perfect place.

Lorraine joined us on zoom just having finished a singing session working with people with dementia.  For years Lorraine has held singing sessions in person and more latterly since lockdown over zoom.  Before starting to talk about her work as a writer of films we talked about how music could unlock parts of the brain and how sometimes the right song could bring people back to life for days at a time.

Having established that Lorraine had written the original story we then got the full back story.  Lorraine has been writing scripts for years. As Lorraine said you keep throwing darts and hope one hits the bullseye.  Sometimes it takes quite a while for the dart to find their target. Over a decade ago she had been brought in to add some comedy into a script for a film that in the end wasn’t made. Years later it would be the same producer, now an executive, who would see Lorraine’s story and start the process of getting her film made.

Lorraine had heard the story about Liz Evans from one of her sons, the baritone Mark Llewellyn Evans, who she had been working with on a completely different type of project altogether. It was when Mark told her that during a conversation he had had with TV presenter Anthea Turner, Anthea had said the story could be the basis for a Richard Curtis ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ type film.

That was the spur for Lorraine to get down to some serious research and to write the synopsis and a treatment.  When a Film producer friend of hers went to a meeting with SKY films to sell them a completely different film idea, it was only when they rejected that idea and they asked if he had anything else that he took out Lorraine’s story…and they loved it.

That was the start of the journey of her film.  Covid did its best to destroy Lorraine’s dream but finally this week the film has had its premiere and people love it.

By the end of our chat Johnny and I almost stood and applauded Lorraine for her determination and commitment to her art.  I think Lorraine was a bit taken aback by our reaction, but Johnny and I know exactly how elusive success can be and when one of our own achieves anything in this business we need to cheer them on from the wings.

When I asked her what she was working on she admitted she had a few film ideas as well as going back on stage with her Abba tribute band and continuing her work with Dementia patients. She would just keep going.  The success is important, especially getting paid but there was one thing we all had in common…we do what we do because we love it and that’s the one thing even money can’t buy.