Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Working in Halstead

I spent some time in the early 1980s working in the attractive Essex market town of Halstead.

I had been managing the old Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury when I spied the advertisement for this appointment, and was delighted to move to such a nice place.

My position was Theatre Manager at the Halstead Empire Theatre, one of the last truly independent cinemas in the country.

The cinema was run by a Trust, whose board members included local business people, as well as the actors Alan Helm and Antonia Pemberton and the scriptwriter Ken Hoare, who had been responsible for many of Stanley Baxter's most hilarious sketches.

After a short while, I was myself co-opted onto the Board.

I was able, by virtue of much hard work and intelligent marketing and public relations, to turn around the financial fortunes of the Empire.

The well known actor Robert Powell was the Empire's patron. He visited the cinema, and helped us to raise awareness.

We also had a small stage, and ran a number of stage shows.

In particular, we had a series of concerts by organists. Among these were Robert Wolfe, John Mann, Jimmy Smith (the British one, that is), Brian Sharp and the legendary Ega Baga, who couldn't understand why I was making such a fuss of her in my office!

Arizona Smoke Revue also performed in a couple of concerts for me. This was the country music band led by Bill Zorn, with help from Paul Downes, Phil Beer and Pete Zorn.

The Halstead Empire was one of the very early cinemas to have a no smoking policy.

While at Halstead, I continued with my policy of taking part in plenty of local Carnival processions. I turned up at Carnivals at Braintree, Coggeshall, Earls Colne, Halstead and Sible Hedingham.

The Empire gained, during my stewardship, an unprecented amount of press coverage, including in papers at Colchester and Ipswich, and I had a long interview live on Radio Orwell at Ipswich.

I also accepted the position of Vice Chairman of Braintree District Arts Council.

Eventually, I decided that I had taken the Empire as far as I could, and decided not to renew my contract. I next worked at Rugby.

If anybody reading this has any connection with Halstead, or North Essex in general (Born? Lived? Worked? Relatives? Ancestors?), I will be very pleased to hear from them.