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ACT Location Walk, Canterbury, 25th August 2013

Another interesting ACT location walk. The weather kept its promise and was warm without being too hot.

I didn't take an exact head count but there were about 25 or so people there. Many familiar faces and a few new ones as well, which is always nice.

We met at Canterbury West railway station - "Pilgrims for Canterbury, all out and get your blessings."

It was the 70th anniversary of when the film was made in and around Canterbury.
Starting at the station where on Monday, August 30, 1943, Alison, Peter, Bob and Thomas Colpeper JP arrived in Canterbury on the 8.57 am train from Chillingbourne.

Down Station Road West where we could see the level crossing that the train passed over giving the pilgrims their first view of Canterbury, up towards the West Gate.

Along St. Dunstan's Street, pausing at the Falstaff. Geoffrey's father had been staying there, waiting for Alison.

To the West Gate into the city, following to route taken by our pilgrims, and later, by the military band and the soldiers.

A playlet performed just by the West Gate. Too much traffic nowadays to stand in the exact spot:
Colpeper: "You know the way?"
Alison: "Yes thanks, I'm taking Bob to the Cathedral. He's got a date there with his buddy."
Peter: "Military secret. We're off today."
Bob: "No! Where to?"
Peter: "Don't worry. I'll be seeing you."

A short way along Pound Lane to the Police Station (in the film) and another little scene:
Peter: "I'm looking for the police station. Superintendent Hall wants to see me."
Inspector: "He's not here. He's got a job on. Special service at the Cathedral. He won't be back til the soldiers have gone."
Peter: "When the soldiers have gone, I'll be gone too."
Inspector: "Well, you might find him round the Cathedral."

Up St. Peter's Street, pausing at the building that acted as the Archers' office while they were filming there

Along The Friars a short way to see the Marlowe Theatre (And the statue dedicated to Christopher Marlowe outside). I explained how, when The Friars cinema stood on that site, that was where the world première of the film was held on 21 August 1944.

Since then the Friars cinema was replaced by the Marlowe theatre which has subsequently been replaced by the new Marlowe theatre after extensive refurbishment and rebuilding. Part of the money for that was raised by letting people dedicate seats - which we did with contributions from members of the email group to dedicate seats to Michael & Emeric. The seats are in the Stalls, Row L, seats 25-26. This is in fact the row in front of the transverse gangway, so even if people aren't able to book to sit in them, they would still be able to take a look at them during the interval!

I had read on their web site that the Cathedral shuts to visitors at 2:30pm. I wanted to get everyone there in plenty of time, so we skipped a couple of locations to get to the Cathedral next. It seemed strange to me that they closed the Cathedral to visitors so early on a Sunday. Maybe the new Archbishop wanted Sundays off, in which case I think he's in the wrong job :)

Walking along Mercery Lane, where the band and the marching soldiers approached the Cathedral. The Boots (chemist) sign no longer hangs over Mercery Lane, that branch of Boots closed some years ago. But there's still a Boots logo up on the wall in St. Peter's Street.

Into The Buttermarket, the area in front of the Cathedral Gate and the site of the Cathedral Tea Rooms (now Starbucks)

Time for another playlet (combining a few scenes between Bob & Micky Roczinsky:
Micky Roczinsky: "Hi! Why you home sick sad sack GI ... and what in Canterbury have you been doing with your three days' leave?"
Bob: "Learning, sergeant, learning ..."
Micky Roczinsky: "Let's have some tea first ... hey babe, what's cooking?
"now let's get this straight. You came here by road, not by train."
Bob: "I came by train but the pilgrims used the old road."
Micky: "Why?"
Bob: "For blessings, you character, for blessings."
Micky: "OK. Where's yours?"
Bob: "They don't work nowadays. That was 600 years ago."
Micky: "It don't work nowadays huh? Well I, Micky Roczinsky, have a blessing for you. I've been carrying these around for two days. They came the afternoon you left, from your girl."
Bob: "Give me those letters. What stamps are these?"
Micky: "Australia. She certainly gets around."
Bob: "These were mailed in Sydney, Australia.
"She's joined the WAACs."

But there were long queues of people trying to get into the Cathedral, so we went back to the main road and up to Rose Lane - the site of the garage where Alison's caravan was being held.

That part of Canterbury has changed most drastically. First the Luftwaffe tried to destroy Canterbury then the local council did their best to complete the job.

At the corner of Rose Lane we performed the classic scene:
Alison: "Excuse me, would you mind telling me, is this Old Canterbury Lane?"
WVS Lady: "No, this is Rose Lane, Canterbury Lane is further up."
Alison: "I haven't been here since 1940. The Rose Hotel used to be here."
WVS Lady: "Right where we're standing. This is The Parade and this is St George's Street ... it is an awful mess, I don't blame you for not knowing where you are. You get a very good view of the Cathedral now."

and then the scene at the garage (not sure exactly where the garage stood):
Alison: "Excuse me. is this Rose Lane Garage?"
Arthur: "Yes. You don't want to take her out, miss, do you?"
Alison: "No. I just want to look at her. She's a good friend of mine."
Arthur: "Caravan?"
Alison: "Yes."
Arthur: "We haven't touched her since the blitz."
Alison: "What happened to the tyres?"
Arthur: "Requisitioned. You know the regulations. Mr Portal couldn't let you know, as he had no address for you ... he'll be glad you're here. I'll go and tell him."
Alison: "Hello Mr Portal, how are you?"
Mr Portal: "Why didn't you leave us your address?
"Two weeks ago Mr Geoffrey's father came here.
"He came here all the way from Otford"
Alison: "He doesn't want the caravan. He can't have it. It was Mr Geoffrey's wish that I should have it ..."
Mr Portal: "It's quite all right Miss Alison, he doesn't want the caravan.
"He wants to get in touch with you.
"I told him I'd received a letter from you and that you were coming here.
"He's waiting for you.
"He's staying at the Falstaff.
"For over two weeks now he's waited for you here, in Canterbury.
"Because he has news, Miss Alison ... about Mr Geoffrey.
"He's in Gibraltar."
[Alison swoons]

Just up the road from there is the remains of St George's church, the clock tower of which still stands and is seen in the film, followed by a shot of the contrails of aircraft flying overhead

OK, so let's try the Cathedral again. The queues weren't too bad and those of us who wanted to go inside, did so (the rest broke off for some refreshment). It's a small cathedral, but perfectly formed. I've been there many times over the years but it's always nice to have another look around.

They are doing some restoration work inside (remember that the screening of ACT in the Cathedral in 2007 was to kick off the latest restoration fund) but we were able to look at the steps by the South Door which lead up to the organ (in the film) and admire the way they those steps and the view down the aisle were re-created at Denham.

Back outside and we discovered that despite what they say on the web site they don't close the place to visitors at 2:30 on Sundays, they just stop charging admission then. After 2:30 anyone can just walk in for free. Ah well, we'll know better next time.

We regrouped back in the Buttermarket and then walked back to the Beaney Institute that we had passed on our way up St Peter's Street. The Beaney Institute was Michael Powell's "temple of learning". Art gallery, lecture hall, exhibition area and lending library. Michael would often take out books 2 or 3 times a day. He was a voracious reader and extremely well read.

As the Marlowe was "dark" today they couldn't arrange for a guided tour to see Micky & Emeric's seats but they had arranged for the plaque to be left for us to view at the Beaney Institute. That's the plaque that Sheila Sim & John Sweet unveiled in October 2000 when we showed the film (as many of you remember) and then took John back to some of the locations. The plaque normally lives in the theatre so it was nice of them to arrange for us to see it at the Beaney.

Then I made the announcement about the English Heritage Blue plaques for Michael & Emeric, although we don't have a definite date for that yet, it is definitely going to happen. Thelma will be letting us know their schedule over the next few weeks and when she & Marty will be over here to promote The Wolf of Wall Street. They have both said that they want to be there and English Heritage suggested that they & Kevin Macdonald (to represent Emeric) would be ideal to do the actual unveiling. We're looking for date in December or January. With 3 Oscar winners doing the unveiling (5 Oscars between them) that should get lots of good publicity for the cause.

I'll let everyone know the dates as soon as they are decided.

I'm now back home, tired but happy :)


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