My parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunties and Cousins were all born in Newport, although I was born in Bedford after my parents moved here to look for work in the Depression of the mid 1930’s. My cousins, Jean, Valerie and Barbara (nee) Smith still live in Newport and I visit them every year and try to keep up with them walking over the Brecon Beacons or up Twm Barlum.
Often we have walked through Risca where I would stop to look at the old Palace Cinema with a feeling of nostalgia mixed with sadness to see its deterioration. What would my father have thought if he could see the wild plants growing out of the brickwork as this classic piece of history began to decay. What memories it would have brought back for him. He was “The Drummer in the Band “.
My mother was born in Newport in 1910 and my father in 1909, living down in “the Docks”. He loved playing the drums and managed to get a job doing this in The Cinema at Risca – (I don’t know the exact dates, but it would have been around 1928 to 1932?) The films were silent of course, so it was usual to have a small band playing to accompany the action. He would cycle up the steep road from the Docks in Newport to Risca, then settle down near the screen with the other musicians to enjoy both the music and the films of the day. It was a new world!
At some point, I think circa 1930, there was a call for young men to join the Army again, so my father decided, with mixed feelings, to give it a go. He now had a motor-bike and rode up to an army base near Chester for an initial trial period, but the experience was not the life of glamour promised, and the cinema at Risca was calling!
So he got back onto his motor-bike to be welcomed home with open arms, but also to learn to his dismay that a replacement drummer had been found who was about to take his place at the Palace. No time was to be lost! He arrived back at the Cinema just in time to re-claim his seat amongst the drums before his replacement arrived !
As a matter of interest, my father then managed a dance band in the RAF during the war, and after the war he was the conductor of the Bedford Theatre Orchestra, plus a dance band of his own which once played on the BBC. I was about ten years old at this point, at which point he ran off with “The Singer in the Band “! Such is life.
Noel Steel, Oakley, Bedfordshire
I recognise this as the Palace cinema, the centre of the community of Risca in the late fifties, early sixties, it's where I had my first official " date" with my husband.
We married in 1963 and moved to Newport and then after retirement bought a property on the beautiful island of Tenerife , where we spent most of the winter months.
Sadly Tony passed away last autumn after over 50 years of marriage , I have such lovely memories of growing up in a Risca it will always have a special place in my heart.
Christine Chard (née Richards)
I only just remember that the palace was used as bingo hall as I'm in my thirties but until two years ago it was a dump and a blot on the eye, now it's a shop and library and looking great on the High Street.
Risca was my hometown and I remember the days of going to the Palace cinema for 6d and then buying a bag of chips on the way home for 3d. It was a lovely, safe, place to live, full of community spirit. We used to have lots of carnivals and gatherings. I still visit my relatives there, and would have loved to have stayed there, but back in 1961, there were very few houses available.
Joan Prisk, Newport
I remember the Palace cinema from the 1950s. My older sister used to take me everywhere with her, and I can clearly remember the time that she met her boyfriend at the cinema and a fight between the teddy boys of the time, broke out. We didn’t tell our mother or we wouldn’t have been allowed to go again!
Hazel Coad, Newport