Our blog will always be about special places and people that are out of the ordinary. This week, that’s meant cinema… The Roxy in Axbridge earlier in the week and now, The Westway Cinema in Frome - a one-screen, 100-seater, 1970’s retro independent, in the heart of this beautiful Somerset town. One thing we can say with absolute certainty is The Westway’s not afraid to be itself. The Westway’s unique!
For a start, I found the original projection equipment at the top of a secret, winding staircase. Whilst everything’s digital now, it was awesome to see how things used to be done and over the years, this well-loved community gem has certainly seen some changes - good and challenging times, like most of us born in the 70’s! And d’ya know what? It’s all the better for it.
The cinema has stories, personality and creative character by the truck-load... from the little foyer bar, with resident skeleton 'Mr Bones' in his bowler hat (more on Bones in a bit!) to the cool, semi-circular booths at the back of the main auditorium. If you go VIP, champagne will be waiting for you as you take your seat there. We’d happily settle down for the evening and watch the latest release in one of those beauties!
It’s also got a different feel to any other cinema we’ve visited before. A programme of ‘sprucing up’ is underway and the cool, eye-catching artwork on the walls from local artists Russ Ellingham and Thomas Lynn, is testament to that.
There’s an old piano on stage, inviting you to ‘please play me’ and in every sense, this place is a living, breathing performance venue, so it’s no surprise it hosts music and other creative events - as well as film. The most recent album launch there by Rivers of England, was complete with Bath University Lecturer, Carolin Villforth, talking about black hole phenomenon!
In fact, there’s a touch of the theatrical weaved in to most things here - something we can’t help but get excited about. If you saw Deadpool at The Westway recently, you might’ve even found the character himself sitting next to you - and Mr Bones delights children and adults alike, as they stop to take selfies with him. Well, it’s not every day you meet a skeleton at the cinema!
Talking of stuff that’s not every day, you can also find Bones out on the town on a Friday lunchtime, dressed up as the latest film release. The first person to spot him out in Frome, wins two cinema tickets to the show of their choice and he’s always imaginatively kitted out. Costumes come from the brilliant guys at Ab Fab, who know how to make an impact! This week, I helped Alex Slade (who looks after all things front of house) dress Bones up as Kung Fu Panda 3 and take him out for coffee at Divas café! Of course I did... nothing surprising about writing that at all :)
It’s certainly no surprise that there’s a lot of affection for this quirky idea. It puts genuine smiles (or looks of 'what the...') on the faces of people who see him out and about! Alex originally found him in one of the old cinema cupboards and thought “let’s have some fun with this”. If you don’t think the week Bones dressed up as Zoolander is fun, then you’ve a cold heart my friend! ;)
Anyway, flicking through the visitors comments book - most of which mention the warm and friendly staff by the way - The Westway made us nostalgic. Nostalgic for the days when you’d go to your small, local cinema and everyone knew your name. For when the old, red velvet curtain would slowly draw back (taking what sometimes felt like an age!) and you’d be transported to a magical world for a couple of hours, where anything was possible and nothing else mattered. So we’d say if you’re looking for a slick, uber-modern multiplex, the Westway probably isn’t the place for you! If you want a dearly-loved retro cinema where the walls could tell a thousand stories, the wrinkles show and you genuinely feel part of the family, then The Westway will absolutely be your cup of tea. Or beer. Or wine as you watch the film!
Finally, on the wall in the loo are the handwritten words “you are beautiful xxx” and do you know what The Westway? We think the same about you!
Our review in 3 words: Dearly-loved retro gem
P.S. If you love superheroes, there’s a 'meet your heroes' event on Easter Sunday at The Westway. So if you (or your children!) want your photo taken with Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, Deadpool, Supergirl or Wonder Woman (or Bones of course) get yourself along! :)