Do you recognise yourself on the set of this 1980s science fiction film which starred an Oscar-winning actress?
PUBLISHED: 12:55 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:46 17 January 2020
On January 21, Cinema City in Norwich will show a special screening of the 1981 science fiction film which saw Argyle Street transformed into a dystopian film set.
Memoirs of a Survivor stars Oscar-winning actress Julie Christie as 'D', a middle-aged housewife coming to terms with life after a cataclysmic war has left Britain on the edge of collapse.
The film was based on a book of the same name written by Doris Lessing - the first British woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature and subject of Doris Lessing 100, an exhibition currently on show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts - with some scenes filmed at Argyle Street, off Rouen Road, in Norwich.
In the late 1970s, Argyle Street, formed of Victorian terraces, became one of the biggest squats in Britain. Squatters eventually formed a co-operative and applied for a grant from the government-funded Housing Corporation. The high-point came in 1981 - the same year as Memoirs of a Survivor's release at the Cannes Film Festival - when it was awarded £1 million for an ambitious renovation scheme, although this was later blocked by the Department for Environment the following year.
Nicky Stainton, former manager of Norwich Arts Centre, remembers the filming taking place.
"We had just moved from St Benedicts Street in Norwich to St Swithin's Church and were raising money to do renovations when we received a call from the production company," she says.
"I actually knew the book so I was very excited about it. I think Julie Christie even came to the first meeting."
At the time, Nicky says that Norwich Arts Centre was little more than an empty church and a church hall - certainly not the glamorous location you might expect an Oscar-winning actress to be in.
"The building was quite run down," says Nicky. "It had an old stage and a ropey loo - a friend of mine actually walked in on her, it was in such a decrepit state I don't think there was a lock on the door!"
Julie Christie won a Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Award for Best Acress for her performance in the film, which was directed by David Gladwell. She had previously won an Oscar for her portrayal of Diana in the 1965 film Darling.
Because of such strong local links, it is believed that a number of local people may have also appeared as extras, and exhibition curator Justine Mann is keen to hear from anyone who was involved. If you would like to share your memories, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
A rare screening of the film will take place next Tuesday, January 21 from 3-5.30pm. To buy tickets, visit https://scva.ac.uk/whats-on/memoirs-of-a-survivor-cinema-city/
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