Introducing Waller Jeffs
Our 'patron saint' for this year's Flatpack Festival is Birmingham film showman Mr Waller Jeffs (1861-1941). Between 1901 and 1912 Mr Jeffs introduced hundreds of thousands of Brummies to the delights of cinema through his annual seasons at the Curzon Hall, Suffolk Street, with light opera, military bands, live sound effects and intriguing novelty acts like 'Unthan the Armless Wonder' presented alongside the films. Towards the end of this period the first proper cinemas started to arrive in the city - including the Electric - and Jeffs' audience rapidly disappeared. He ended up in slightly less elevated circumstances, managing the Picturehouse in Stratford-on-Avon.
Flatpack 3 will launch at Town Hall on 11 March with 'Curzonora', a show featuring 'musical whirlwind' The Destroyers and celebrating Mr Jeffs' legacy and that of 1900s film-shows in general. There's very little about this era of Birmingham's cultural history on the web, so in the run-up to the show we'll be posting occasional snippets that we've come across in our research. The picture above shows Jeffs with camera in Cannon Hill Park with various civic luminaries in 1907. And if you're wondering where the heck Suffolk Steet is, it's now the dual carriageway running past the Mailbox. Below you see Curzon Hall (left of picture, with thanks to DJ Norton & son) in its 1962 incarnation as the West End cinema, five years before getting knocked down. (Baskerville House can be spied in the background.)