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Scottish Sojourn: The GFT

Posted at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Any trip back to where you grew up inevitably has an element of sentimentality to it. The trip to Glasgow to see "Seachd" certainly had that for me as the film makers held the screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

It's tucked on the end of a building on a well travelled road called Rose Street. not far from the commercial center of the city and splendor of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Glasgow School of Art.

There are many reasons why this building is important to me, but it's primarily due to the fact hat it was built as a cinema by my grandfather George Singleton and his brother Vincent in the late 1930's.

They already had several cinemas in other parts of the town, but they wanted to try what was an audacious idea at the time. They wanted to create a movie house dedicated to the best in world cinema.

The called the cinema the Cosmo. short for cosmopolitan. When it opened in 1939 it was just the second arthouse theater in Britain. When war broke out later that year the Singleton brothers worried their enterprise might fall victim to Hitler's empire-building, but the people of Glasgow voted with their feet and it was a huge success, selling out night after night, even as the city lived through air-raids and other war time restrictions.

The big hits? Anything with the French actor Fernandel (who the locals with typical Glaswegian aplomb re-dubbed 'fir-NAN-dil") Disney's "Fantasia" and "Les Vacances de M. Hulot," which remains my favorite film of all time.

Many Scottish actors and directors have said they got their early inspiration from seeing films at the Cosmo.

In the early 1970's the Cosmo became the Glasgow Film Theatre, and has continued as a non-profit with the mission of bringing the best in film to the people of Glasgow.

Even at 10 o'clock on a weekday morning, a steady flow of people passed through the cafe as we waited for the screening. A couple of well known comedians were working on something in the larger of the cinemas two theaters. It was good to see the place jumping.

I wandered around and took pictures of the exterior and the caricature of "Mr Cosmo" supposedly based on my grandfather which still hangs above the box office.

As I wandered into the theater I came across a pile of flyers for a program which promotes free Saturday morning screenings for high school students. Each student can bring one adult who also gets in for free. It's a brilliantly simple idea, and can only help build the audiences of the future.

The screening over I headed off into the bright Glasgow sunshine, feeling very contented.

September 2006
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