From Elvis to the Sex Pistols, do you remember Aylesbury's Screen on The Square?

Aylesbury Civic Centre
Aylesbury Civic Centre

When he found out that Aylesbury Civic Centre has a cinema facility that it could not use Aylesbury Grammar School teacher Robin Pike decided to take on a bit of a challenge.

And in 1980 Screen on The Square was born, bringing to the Civic Centre and its visitors a wealth of music films to a generation of local people.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

In 1975 there was just one cinema in Aylesbury, The Odeon in Cambridge Street. This had a small number of screens and so was only able to show a limited range of films.

The Civic Centre opened that year and had a facility for showing films, but commercial law made it difficult to operate.

Robin said: "It had a projection room and retractable seating that allowed for use as a cinema. Unfortunately, the architect had overlooked the fact that Councils were not allowed to show films commercially. The Kinematographic Renters Society (the KRS) controlled the hiring of films by distributors and had decided that Councils did not operate on a strictly commercial basis and could not be allowed to compete with cinema chains.

"So the Civic Centre’s cinema facility remained unused. This was a pity as there were many music films produced from the late sixties that were of interest to an Aylesbury audience who had become interested in rock music."

Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols

So, in 1980 Robin decided to take matters into his own hands and became a member of the KRS persuading the Civic Centre to show films on certain Sundays. These were music films that would otherwise not have been seen in the town. So it was that Screen on The Square came about.

He added: "The name was derived from The Screen on The Hill, an independent cinema in Belsize Park. It was something of a surprise to see films such as Rude Boy (The Clash), The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (Sex Pistols) and The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) playing in Aylesbury on Sunday afternoons. Probably the biggest audience of all though was for the Jimi Hendrix film that had been made in 1973 but had not been widely shown after its initial release. The Sunday audience in Aylesbury was so great that that the distributors subsequently showed it at the Hammersmith Odeon, a cinema that had over 3000 seats."

Other Screen on The Square films included Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (Bob Dylan), Blue Hawaii (Elvis Presley) and The Tempest (directed by Derek Jarman, featuring Toyah Willcox).

Do you remember Screen on The Square? Email hayley.okeeffe@jpress.co.uk