Memorabilia showcase marks 80th Anniversary
Photos, artefacts and memories of a building that has been serving the local community since 1938 are on display as part of a temporary exhibition.
Located on Sherburn Road, a short walk from Dragonville Retail Park, Apollo Bingo Durham is showcasing memorabilia that goes back as far as its cinema days.
Kath McGurk, General Manager at the club said “The building’s 80th anniversary was marked with eight days of promotions all linked to the number 8 or 80 preceding this wonderful showcase. These interesting artefacts have been uncovered from rooms upstairs that are haven’t seen the light of day for years, and are being displayed in public for the first time.”
She added “I’m very grateful to Marc Cook one of our Mainstage callers who has worked in the club for 17 years and has spent his own time researching the history of the club. It became a passion project which he has thoroughly enjoyed doing.”
The exhibition will be on show throughout the whole of September.
80 years in the making – a chronology
Opened in August 1938 as The Majestic and it was opened to provide entertainment for the new housing estate across the road. The first movie shown was Maytime starring Jeanette MacDonald.
During the 2nd World War, it was an important part of the community is people used it as a gathering place for news and advice about the war, movies gave way to Public Information Films on the British Home front.
Damaged by fire in 1956, it remained open and did not close its doors as a cinema until November 1961 with Elvis Presley’s Flaming Star being the last movie shown.
The building was bought by the Mason Organisation and reopened as a Bingo hall, it even had a roulette wheel at the front recalls one member.
In 1977 as an experiment, Mr Mason decided to move the staff and club into Durham City to try and expand the clientele.
For a number of years the building became a Boxing Gym and a Skateboard Arena.
1982 saw Mr Mason bring bingo home to The Majestic and it was reopened after a glitzy refurbishment.
Linked games were conducted over telephone lines unlike the digital way they connect now and on occasion there were some members of the public who dialled a wrong number and ended up dialling into a link game conference and being heard all over the North East!
In 2003 the building was bought by Top Ten, refurbished and reopened officially in 2006 by the Mayor of Durham. For the first time in its history it was no longer called The Majestic having been rebranded as Top Ten Durham.
In the late 2000’s Top Ten decided to sell The Majestic but not before rebranding it as Apollo – owned by Top Ten and housed in The Majestic!
In a serendipitous turn of events the club was purchased by Majestic Bingo Ltd, having gone full circle and whilst still called Apollo, The Majestic is now owned by Majestic.
One of the club’s new team members, Carl Barker’s recalls his grandfather Tom Collier being a projectionist when the building was a cinema. Carl now stands calling bingo numbers in the place where his grandfather used to project movies.
Customer memories (part of the showcase)
“I remember when it was a cinema in the 1950’s and all the kids would ride home on their imaginary horses emulating the cowboys they had just seen on screen.” P. Hart
“My grandfather worked here as a doorman when it was a cinema and he had to wear one of those enormous coats. In those days you could swap pop bottles for money, so we would see a movie for the price of 2 pop bottles or a jam jar instead of cash.” J. Oliver
“There were no fruit machines in the early days like you see now. There was one machine, you would queue up, the attendant would shout ‘ Next!’, you would put your sixpence in and get one spin. If you were unlucky you went to the back of the queue to wait your turn again.” M Taylor