Film buff playing key role at Halifax housing scheme

A film buff is playing a vital role in the community life of Yorkshire Housing’s Asquith Court scheme in Halifax.

Resident Mike Smith, 83, a former movie projectionist, helps run film nights at the sheltered housing scheme on Sandhall Green.

Mike worked at the ABC Cinema at Wards Ends in Halifax from 1965 until retirement in 2001.

He helps staff at Asquith Court screen films on regular Wednesday and Friday nights that form part of the scheme’s active social calendar.

There are also quiz nights and bingo – but film is Mike’s passion and he even has an 8mm projector.

Mike uses the late 1970s Bell and Howell Filmosonic machine to screen short versions of popular movies before the main showing.

These 8mm prints include Carousel, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Mike, originally from Chester, had a love of cinema from childhood and turned it into a career after leaving the army transport corps in the 1950s.

His favourite actor is John Wayne while favourite films include The Quiet Man, which starred Wayne, plus The Great Escape and Bridge over the River Kwai.

He met wife Mable through an army colleague and moved over the Pennines to be with her.

The couple, who lived at Ashville Gardens in Halifax before moving to Asquith Court about 15 years ago, were married for 53 years.

Mable, a mother and grandmother, sadly died in a couple of years ago.

The film nights keep Mike busy and he said: “I love doing the film club. It gets people out of their rooms and mixing together.

“And I like it here. It’s friendly and people get on with each other. There’s also quizzes on Mondays and Thursdays and bingo, so there’s lots to do.”

Mike was among the dozens of Asquith Court residents who attended a garden party as part of a double celebration recently.

There was buffet food, drinks, games and a tombola in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

It was organised to rededicate a time capsule and celebrate the completion of external renovations.

Asquith Court has benefitted from new signage, exterior paths, patios, flower beds and a lovely garden in the central courtyard.

Further improvements, including new garden furniture and an interior redecoration, are also planned.

Mike has many anecdotes from his career, including one about controversial 1973 horror film The Exorcist.

He said: “The owner (of the ABC in Halifax) refused to show it, didn’t want anything to do with it.

“I said all you have to do is put it on and leave it and do something else while it’s running. But it frightened the living daylights out of him!”