Many years ago I put together and ran a management training course at my company for junior IT managers who were potential high fliers based around some real life business scenarios. They’d come from all over the world and at the Friday night pre-course briefing session I’d warned them that all might not be what it seemed and left them to “enjoy” the evening ahead with these parting words : “Expect the unexpected”.


The following morning I went out for a run before breakfast and opted for a final sprint along the long drive which led back to the training venue. I tripped, went head over heels and broke my collar bone. Sitting on the stairs a while later holding my shoulder the ambulance arrived just as the delegates walked past to breakfast . There was little sympathy for me as naturally they all assumed that it was part of the course and that I was faking it. Believe me, I’m not that good an actor!


The point of course is that no matter how hard you plan (and there’s a lot that goes into putting on our films) there’s always room for a wild card. This was provided on Thursday afternoon by an unfortunate fire just off the High Street. With 5 fire engines in attendance the road was closed all afternoon and into the early evening, a road we had to drive down in order to park at the Chantry Centre bringing what we needed to run our film. On to the fallback option which for those who know Billericay was to park in Chantry Way and carry stuff from there.


With the High Street closed heavy traffic jams built up on Sun Corner. These were, naturally, directly in the path of Costas Fotopolous, our guest pianist who was driving up from London. And so with the BillericayCine team inside getting the cinema ready I was outside on the phone with Costas explaining what was going on, keeping him updated and eventually giving him alternate directions.


Despite the ‘controlled panic’ thanks to the alternate route and the wonders of sat-nav Costas arrived with plenty of time to spare having followed a convoluted path to get around the jams and arrive at the top of Chantry Way.


“Well done Billericay Cine !!”

“Thank you all for another amazing evening”

“BRILLIANT evening”


Thanks to our team of incredible Volunteers the (rather busy) evening went very smoothly. From the organisation of the tables to the construction of the stage for Costas and his keyboard, through the entire evening with those on the Front of House, bar, projection, service and kitchen everyone did an incredible job.


A heartfelt thanks to our Volunteers: John, Paula,  Charlotte, Sarah, Ken, Jackie, David, Paul, Martin, Pete, Little Mark, Big Mark, Jo and Adam for your hard work. A special mention to Jackie and Sarah in the kitchen (just HOW much washing up was done?) and Pete and Martin who were kept busy shaking up cocktails like they’d gone out of fashion.


Above – the slick, well-oiled machine that is our refreshment service!


“Excellent! Complete enjoyment” 


Costas quickly set up and worked with Mark (our projectionist) on sound checks and the audience started to arrive.


Above Costas and Big Mark. And for the avoidance of any doubt, those tins are WATER (for environmental reasons we serve water in cans rather than plastic)!!!


We had a packed house with 61 watching (of 66 booked). Amongst the audience we had a large bevy of Rotarians visiting for the first time (is there a collective noun for Rotarians ?) and we were able to welcome back a wonderful couple of regulars, one of whom who had been suffering from long Covid and was on her first night out in 10 months. Thank you for spending it with us!


First up was a presentation to Ken to commemorate achieving a milestone of being a Volunteer at 50 films. Ken actually came to our Grand Opening back in 2015 as a guest before becoming one of our key Volunteers. Congratulations and thank you to Ken!


It was a delight to welcome Costas Fotopolous back for the 4th time to what is (for me 🙂 ) the pinnacle of the cinema’s year: Silent Film Night. Costas is a professional silent film accompanist who can often be found at the BFI’s South Bank – and if you ever get a chance to see him there, I’d thoroughly recommend it.


“Buster Keaton is superb. Wonderful storyline”


And so to the films – our first Charlie Chaplin, “The Immigrant”, an 18 minute short from 1917. After the interval we then moved on to Buster Keaton in “The Battling Butler”.


Those who had been before knew what to expect; one or two chose specific seats to ensure they got the view they wanted so they could witness the skill firsthand of both Costas playing and Keaton and Chaplin on the screen. And as with previous years Costas didn’t fail to deliver! Whilst the “short” was only 18 minutes, the main feature was 71. That’s 71 minutes of total concentration and 71 minutes of musical improvisation. Costas mentioned after the film that it takes him around 30 minutes for the adrenalin to leave his system once the film has ended!


This is always my favourite evening of our cinema year and I loved every minute – but I’ll leave our audience feedback to say what they thought :


Great night and films. The piano playing was brilliant!

I have no words ! Costas is simple phenomenal. Oh and great choice of films – but wow… Costas!!! Thank you to all the amazing volunteers

A brilliant evening as usual. Costas is an absolute master of his craft!

Chaplin was great and Keaton was amazing ! The true star was Costas, thank you for the entertainment!

Tremendous piano performance – and the films weren’t bad either! A unique occasion

The pianist accompanying the two films was incredible. 

Music amazing!


All I can add is to thank Costas Fotopolous for a memorable and once again mesmerising visit and for those of you who’ve read this far I’ll let you into a little secret. He’s agreed to come back again next year!



Thank you whoever gave this score!


56 feedback forms were returned and the average score for the films was a solid 9.7 with the score for the evening overall 9.9.


As their final act as they leave the audience voted for how they wished any profits from the night to be split – and this time it was The Cater Museum who will get 36%, the Billericay Foodbank 36% and the Billericay Educational Trust 28%. All that remains is to leave you with the rest of the audience feedback – and to wish you well until we see you again!

“Most enjoyable 1st visit”

“Enjoyable evening”

“Thank you for a great evening!”

“Perfect evening in all aspects. Adam’s address with such background; the accompaniment by Costas and the films themselves, particularly Chaplin”

“Another brilliant night”

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