Hi! I’m Sarah, a Hadleigh local and 2021 Illustration graduate from Camberwell College of Art.
Over the course of the winter to spring series of lockdowns, I created a virtual museum based on Hadleigh’s once magnificent Kingsway cinema and rare Compton organ. The project came about as a response to a brief set by my university to create a ‘virtual museum’ based on our local area.
My work often centres around connecting to communities and individuals in order to re-vitalise stories that are in danger of being lost. I started my research journey with this in mind. After contacting the Hadleigh and Thundersley Community Archive, I soon discovered the story I was looking for. Hadleigh’s 1,400 seat cinema, which stood in the place the supermarket behemoth Morrison’s now occupies, was built in 1935. Like many cinemas of the time, it was furnished with an incredible instrument, the cinema organ- a purpose-built music and sound-effect machine made to accompany films and entertain during intervals.
I was immediately fascinated by the organ, and after a quick internet search found that there was little information to be found on the subject of this individual instrument. All I knew was that it had managed to avoid destruction in the demolition of both the cinema and a temporary home at Rochford hospital. Where was it now? Who saved it? Who played it? I quickly decided that I would find out what happened to Hadleigh’s elusive musical heirloom, and document its story for historical purposes.
I contacted the Cinema Organ Society and through them and the community archive managed to connect with many of the individuals who had served some part in the life of the instrument. Where lockdown for me had been a time of isolation, with my university shut and no hope of a traditional end to my degree, I found that Hadleigh’s lost organ was a touchstone of connection between me and my local community.
Being an illustrator, and not a web designer, the toughest part of the project for me was getting it to my audience. I spent up to a month working out how I would implement menus and navigation into my site, which is hosted by Cargo Collective. I wanted the experience of using the website to mirror the way people walk around a physical museum. Therefore, I endeavoured to give my audience multiple ways of moving around the site and absorbing the content. I did this by splitting the story into chapters which could be navigated to, or alternately you can experience the story in its full, uninterrupted glory, with the option to simply scroll down through all of the sections.
The visual aesthetic of the website is inspired by the work of 1930s illustrators José Carlos and John Held Jr. It was my intention to evoke the styles that were present during the time period in which cinema organs were popular and Hadleigh’s cinema opened. I wanted to make the organ’s story and the rather dense forest of niche information that surrounds it accessible to all, even those with only a passing interest.
Find out more about the story of Hadleigh’s cinema and Compton organ in the virtual museum: https://pipesinpieces.cargo.site
I hope you enjoy it!
If you are interested in my work or have a story you think should be told, visit me on my website https://sarahjudd.co.uk or Instagram @sarahjuddart