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In January 2021, the Conacher organ was acquired by the East Midlands Cinema Organ Association. It will be fully restored at our Centre near Melton Mowbray where it will reside in company with its sister organ from the Forum Cinema, Coventry.
The Conacher has now been purchased from storage in Kent and is in the hands of a small group East Midlands Cinema Organ Association, formed to support the restoration and maintenance of the instrument. The owner, Carl Heslop, is a professional organ builder and I am Secretary of the group. The organ is now based at the ‘New Forum’ our centre in Melton Mowbray. It is our intention to restore it to original condition but also to enable it to replicate one of the long-gone 22 Rank Conachers. We have already obtained pipework from the Conachers of the Ritz, Nottingham, Regal, Southampton, Regal, Hull and Regal, Wimbledon. Installation of a computer-based control system makes this possible. The console suffered significant water damage whilst stored in Kent and has had to be extensively re-built. However, the good news is that this survivor of a rare marque will once again be heard.
I was in Southend this week (early March 2017) and took some pictures of the on-going demolition. They’re on my Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/28808395@N03/albums/72157625218084863
I have just (19.06.2016) uploaded a photograph of the organ in the church where it has been since 1960. Although modified, it retains much of its original pipework and some effects.
Still here in June 2016!
I’ve added a photograph taken today, 11th June 2016, which shows further alterations to the frontage.
April 2015 photographs here …
or flickr les veuves ‘Birmingham Cinemas’
If those links don’t work, go to flickr les veuves photostream and look at the album named ‘Birmingham Cinemas’
April 2015 photographs here:
The address is not strictly correct as the theatre was located part-way down Gold Street, this may have been done to encourage potential patrons away from the Majestic, which was at the ‘bottom’ of Gold Street.
Further research suggests some remnants of the shop remain. No 10 Gold St was listed in 1952 as an early 19th Century superstructure in stone over a modern shop. The address is now 8-10 Gold St, so further alterations since 1952 have obscured whatever remains of this cinema. A 1972 piece in the Chronicle and Echo refers to a back entrance in College Street, about which only the manager knew. This part was demolished many years ago.
My mother once told me she was taken to this cinema, by her brother, to see a ‘Fu Manchu’ film. She screamed so much at a scene involving a spider taht he never took her to the cinema again!
I have my date wrong on this; films ended in 1974.
Access is via an entrance off the main shopping mall within the Weston Favell Centre of which, structurally, it is a part.
It also spent a period as part of the Virgin chain, after MGM moved out.
The correct address is actually Abington Street. Reginald Foort, the organist, visited here with his travelling Moller organ, which was placed on the stage. Owing to the size of the instrument, it was necessary to excavate the base of the stage door to get it in. Foort was, effectively a local, being born in Daventry.
I’m not sure from where I obtained this photocopy of the original image. It may have come from an old copy of the COS Journal; I offer it for interest, without intention to infringe copyright.
I have recently been in contact with the new owners of the Conacher and have been told it is their intention to locate a suitable venue (Not an easy thing to do) and re-install the organ in as close to original condition as possible. Given that I spent a lot of time with it many years ago, i think this is fantastic news and I wish them every success.
It is now a furniture outlet known as ‘SofaKing’, which recently received national press coverage owing to some objections to the advertising phrase, our prices are ‘Sofaking’ cheap. I have no idea what it means!
The surround was left in the cinema as the decision was made to restyle the console to match its new surroundings. A mahogany laminated blockboard was used and the original, as I recollect cream and green coloured, was cut up and used in the school woodwork department. On one occasion I discovered the section which covered the relays above the pedalboard, in the woodstore, cut in half, so I cleaned it up and re-united it with the console. When the school bought the organ, for £100, the installation team was allowed a further £100 to complete the job, so it was all done on a shoestring.
The group which went on to buy the Wellingborough Compton for Bilston Town Hall, had hoped to buy the Conacher. I think I am right in saying that the school accepted an offer for £350 from the people who took it to Kent where, it seems, it is in the hands of an organ builder. Having spent a few years caring for this temperamental beast, I hope it remains intact when re-installation eventually occurs. Unfortunately, a number of theatre organs have been shorn of their traps and percussions when ‘taking the cloth’!
The Compton organ was removed to Wellingborough Technical Grammar School (later Weavers School). It has subsequently, around 2008, been removed to Bilston Town Hall, restored and modified and use for dance music.
The Conacher organ was sold from the school around 2006 and today seems to be in the hands of a Kent-based organ builder. There is a possibility it may be re-installed in a church, but whether or not it will be complete is unknown.