A chance encounter during a holiday in Germany led to a mid-Wales octogenarian telling his military story to a University of Birmingham expert researching the history of an abandoned British army theatre and cinema.
Ann Davies’ 80th birthday present to her husband Ken was a surprise trip to Oldenburg, where he was stationed in 1956/57 during his military service. The couple, from Maesteg, Glamorgan, were due to make the tour in April, but illness meant the trip was postponed.
But when they finally made the trip this month, information from the local tourist office led to them visiting The Globe, where they met Lecturer (Teaching) English as a Modern Foreign Language (EMFL) Dr. John Goodyear, who has spent the last 18 months uncovering the building’s history.
Mr Davies became the 26th octogenarian to be interviewed by Dr. Goodyear, whose independent research and eyewitness interviews conducted since January 2018 form part of the efforts by the Globe Theatre and Cinema Trust to rescue the former cinema and theatre.
He said: “Everybody is so friendly and the memories really came to life in The Globe. I was happy to tell Dr. Goodyear about my time in Oldenburg and recall memories of visiting the cinema. It’s a bit disappointing to see that the old barracks have been converted into a new residential area, but a lot will change in 62 years."
The Globe featured twice-daily film showings at that time and was the only way for Mr Davies, as well as many other British soldiers, to find enjoyment after work alongside table tennis, bingo and drinking.
The programme for January 1957 gives an inkling of what made the screen flicker at that time, including "The Left Hand of God" with Humphrey Bogart, "Alexander the Great" with Richard Burton and "The Man Who Knew Too Much" with James Stewart and Doris Day.
Earlier this year, Dr. Goodyear was formally invited by the City of Oldenburg to submit a German-language contribution on his research into the former British military cinema and theatre located in the district of Donnerschwee in the northern part of the city.
The academic joined forces with British Army and the Bundeswehr to help strengthen bonds between German and British soldiers through his research into their shared entertainment history.
His appeal for help researching the landmark building’s history prompted former service personnel serving in Oldenburg in the 1950s to come forward from across the UK to tell their stories of the army cinema.
Dr. Goodyear commented: “Shortly after my talk at The Globe, I learned that the Davies’ were on holiday in Oldenburg to take a trip down memory lane. I interviewed Ken and he told me about his stationing in Oldenburg - the 26th octogenarian I have encountered on my search to write the Globe’s cultural history.
“The Globe forms a fascinating of Oldenburg’s history which the city shares with the UK. My research revealed that the Globe provided an important connection to home for soldiers stationed in the city, with service personnel speaking in glowing terms about The Globe and providing historical material to illuminate the life of the building.”
Dr Goodyear revealed the initial findings of his independent research project to a special audience in Oldenburg earlier this year, with members of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) attending.
Exhaustive research took Dr Goodyear to archives in Oldenburg, Koblenz, and Freiburg in Germany. He also used archives in the UK - with the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library providing valuable information.
Designed in 1954 and built in 1955 by the Army Kinematic Corporation (A.K.C.), The Globe acted as a cultural hub for officers and soldiers, many of whom were conscripted national service personnel, away from home for the first time.
Dr Goodyear’s cultural history of the historic building will also help to form a blueprint for future use of the 400-seat theatre. Volunteers in Germany now raised the full amount and purchased the Globe; they just require 60,000 euros to reach their next target to fully fund the refurbishment work to transform the building into a regional cultural venue. The Trust is seeking funding from grants, sponsors, donations and crowdfunding.
For interview enquiries and photos, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)121 414 8254. For out of hours media enquiries, please call: +44 (0) 7789 921 165
- The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world's top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
- For more information about the GLOBE Theatre and Cinema Trust project.
- The British Army built and operated cinemas for troops in Germany, but nearly all the facilities built between 1947 and 1957, are derelict or have been demolished.
- The German Army took over the barracks in the late 1950s but abandoned the site in 1991. It remained deserted until redevelopment began in 2015. There are now 850 apartments in the former barrack buildings, most of which have listed building status.