Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

What I Did in Westcliff

Although I was born in Rochford, and always regarded Southend as my home town, I lived with my parents for the first 21 years of my life in the Southend suburb of Westcliff.

I went to school successively at Westborough Infants and Junior Schools, before moving to one of the local grammar schools, Southend-on-Sea High School for Boys.

As a boy, I was briefly a member of the cubs (then known as wolf cubs) and boy scouts, based at Trinity Methodist Church.

At school, we were taken for swimming lessons at the open air Westcliff Swimming Baths, later given some fame by the late Ian Dury. I am sorry to say that I still can`t swim.

During my childhood and teens, I went to the cinema in Westcliff a number of times. There were two, the Mascot and the Metropole (later Essoldo, even later Classic). I also visited the Palace Theatre on occasion.

Many years later, having spent a good few years managing cinemas, I returned to Westcliff in 1972 to manage the Classic Cinema. It was during my spell there that the cinema was twinned. Believe it or not, we continued to be open all through the conversion work, and only closed for one day when we physically moved the huge projectors from high up at the top of the building to the ground floor.

This was one of the early twinning operations, and I had to invent many new administrative systems.

It was at Westcliff that I invented the concept of cinemas having their own Carnival Queens. With a complex system of voting by local celebrity judges, the annual winner was called the Classic Queen, and facilitated taking part in a large number of carnival processions.

I became the first cinema manager to write his own column ("Crosby`s Column") in a local newspaper, and ran regular late night shows and occasional all night shows. I specialised in music films, and in particular unearthed and showed films about rock singers and musicians.

In 1974, at a company conference in Mallorca, I was very proud to be awarded Classic Cinemas` "Showman of the Year" trophy.

In addition to all this, I found time to take part in a number of local initiatives, and was at the forefront locally of the conservation movement.

I even led a sponsored walk from Westcliff to Hullbridge, which had been organised by a Hullbridge community group.

When I left the cinema after three highly successful years, a local newspaper hailed me as "rock fanatic, conservationist and cinema manager extraordinaire".

I did on occasion spend nights at Westcliff, and visited the multi purpose Cliffs Pavilion for shows. I also attended my eldest daughter Theresa`s wedding at a church in Westcliff.

Many years later, when I had reinvented myself in Leicester as a Blue Badge Guide, I gave a talk at Trinity Methodist Church, where in my childhood I had attended scouts!