Happy 100th blog post! And I'm very proud of what we're covering for it. Whoever thought my biggest rooftop itch was the bingo hall? I've climbed St Chads, I've climbed the market hall clocktower. I got a selfie with Lord Hill. I've been on more rooftops than Santa, and I'm twice as jolly too! But this is the big one for me. This is the itch that is finally getting scratched. And I'm glad I get to have a memorable adventure to mark my 100th blogpost.
For those of you who don't know, Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not dates back to a now-deactivated Facebook profile, which had a folder on it called "Shrewsbury from higher up than you," that contained rooftop shots from 2010 and 2011. My friend, the rooftopper from Oswestry, would regularly come to visit during these days, and like me he had a Facebook folder for our photos. He called his folder "Shrewsbury from where you are not," justifying it that we did a little bit more than just climb buildings. He also went on to make a folder called "Oswestry from where you are not" and "Cornwall from where you are not" so he's quite an impressive spin-off of this project, the blog of which is named after his original superior-named Facebook photo album. Rounding up the group was a guy who moved away to Newcastle and a guy who settled down with the woman of his dreams and gave up all this nonsense. We had a number of rooftops we wanted to get onto, and we did a good job of it. But the Bingo Hall always evaded us. From ground level, one can see ladders on the roof. We knew there had to be a way up there, but we never could figure it out.
That's not to say we didn't try. There were several embarassing incidents, including one where we waited an hour for traffic to thin out only to climb what we thought was the right wall, and end up getting nowhere. Nevertheless, we had a group photo on this ridiculous little ledge just to entertain ourselves.
So anyway, the old rooftopping posse kinda disbanded as we went our own separate ways. We're still in touch but rarely in the same place. I did make a vague effort to reassemble the group when I found a way up onto the Bingo Hall after all these years, but alas, they couldn't make it. My trusty steed, Tree Surgeon, was available though! It's not as much of an achievement for him as it is for me but I wouldn't drag him into so many life threatening adventures that you guys get to read about if I didn't
Let's take a look!
So this is the Bingo Hall.
My map of Shrewsbury from 1880 cuts off just above the library, so I have no idea what stood here prior to the buildings construction in the 1930s. This place was built purely with the objective of it being a theatre. It opened its doors in 1934 and played a mixture of stage shows and films. In the 1950s it would also convert the stage into an ice rink for pantomimes on ice. It also attracted some big names. In 1963, the Beatles performed there. In fact, it was on the way to Shrewsbury that they wrote their song "From Me To You." The following year, the Rolling Stones performed there. In 1973 it closed and reopened as the Granada Bingo Club, owned by the same company. It became the Gala Bingo Hall in 1991. English Heritage made it a listed building in 1995. If you look at the above photo, you can still see where the letters spelling out "GRANADA" were once on the wall, above the pillars.
I have had a minor raid on the internet to find some older photos of this awesome building. Unfortunately I can't credit them as I have no idea who took them, but they're not mine, thats for sure. But checkout that plane display! That would have been a sight to see back in the day.
But to get to my pictures, the Bingo Hall is actually a lot bigger than it looks. As such, the view had a lot to offer in terms of perspective.
I wasn't initially happy with the pictures. But then maybe I'm just being picky. One only has to look to blog posts just over a year ago to see what my phone was like. I'm very grateful for what I've got. My readers have done wonders helping me along with their donations. And someday I'll show you these adventures from a go-pro on a youtube channel. If you want to help with the fundraising, head to the top of the blog and hit donate.
Regarding my pictures, click them to see them big.
I'm not sure where the road called "Castle Gates" becomes "Castle Street." But this is that street, and it goes by both names. Even at 2am it is still busy, and it was unfortunately impossible to get a shot without traffic-induced light painting.
A view of the Vaults. Apparently someone once fell to their death from one of the upstairs windows and still haunts the room.
And next door, the Bulls Head. I havent got any historical or supernatural nuggets about this place but it is quite a homely little place.
But towards the back of the Bingo Hall, I could get this view of another pub, the Alb. I actually have yet to drink there!
Off in the distance there, one can see St Chads and the clocktower popping up in the distance. The big white building that looks like it was designed to look old but is clearly from the 1980s is actually the Darwin Shopping Centre, and the rooftops that we called the Rat Run.
In the distance of this shot is Shrewsbury train station.
And here's the libary. It looks very imposing on the distance and kinda looks like a church. That's because part of it WAS a church. Although it was a church extension of Shrewsbury School back in the 1800s, when schools had churches. I wrote a more detailed history on my library post, the very first adventure Tree Surgeon and I had together.
So that's it from the Bingo Hall, an amazing rooftop to have finally found a way onto. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, share the blog etc...
NO I'M KIDDING!!! Something monumentally awesome happened and the adventure is far from over!!!
And this is important because it explains why this blog post took so long to publish. I had to wait for the second half of this adventure to no longer be accessible. The Shrewsbury tag on Instagram is getting quite lively with rooftop shots now, as it seems to be becoming quite a popular sport. I have met a few of the new rooftoppers in Shrewsbury and I have to say the ones I know of appear to be good people. But a lot of people ask me how to get to places, such as rooftops, abandoned spaces, and in particular underground tunnels, and sometimes they're quite open with their intentions. I've been asked if I can disclose locations for drug use, sex, and raves. And of course, the answer is no. But it reinforces that the need to protect these places is always a priority. And on this particular discovery, I was determined to keep it under cover, and only wrote about it once I was sure the place could no longer be accessed, to protect it.
Tree Surgeon and I found a way in. We're not disclosing the way in, but I wouldn't be writing about this if it could be emulated. It wasn't comfortable nor was it conventional and I want to say again that we don't force entry. We used an opening that just happened to be available, and it's not anymore.
So onto the interior!
The attic of this building is a labyrinthian walkway. At one end is what I think is the water tank, with a really precarious ladder up to it.
Also in the floor of the attic are these really large bulbs that lit up the area below.
Anyway, the reason why this place is important to me is because we found ourselves ultimately in the old cinema projection room of the old days.
And some of the old equipment is still up here!
Isn't this amazing? It's like a museum up here! Now, I wasn't really interested in the publically accessible part of the bingo hall , and surely that would be protected anyway by cameras and motion sensors. But I was genuinely intrigued by the remnants of the cinema and the architecture around me. Check out this stairway.
The walls are a brilliant gold. We didn't go down these stairs, but back in the 1930s through to the 1970s people would have come up these stairs to see a film or a stage performance. I can imagine it perhaps decorated with posters, but otherwise it probably looked more or less the same as it does now. We followed the hallway along, and to our shock and amazement, we found that the actual place where they all would have sat looks pretty much the same too!
While the actual stage/screen area is no longer there, all these seats are walled off and preserved, inaccessible to the public from the bingo hall. We didn't pass any staff rooms on the way to this area so for all I know, the bingo hall staff don't come up here either. They wouldn't have reason to. These seats are coated in dust that has accumulated over several decades.
Check out the detail on the side of these seats! And also that little cup underneath it. How long has that been there?
In the backs of the chairs were little metal ash trays, which really gives away the age of the place. But the most amazing part was that some of these trays still contained ash from cigarettes!
According to the Shropshire-based vlogger on the supernatural, Paranormal Laura, someone actually killed themselves in this room during its days as a theatre. I don't know any of the details though but she does have a video coming up that will possibly elaborate. If you're interested, click her name there and subscribe to her channel.
At the back of the seating area was this little bar area, presumably where one could buy snacks back in the day.
We also found this really retro telephone near the old cinema toilets. It still had a list of extension numbers above it.
The camera flash obscures some of it. This was, after all, a pitch black hallway, but one can see numbers for the Managers Office, as well as the mens staff room, the womens staff room, a snack bar and the Granada Bar, and at the end, the treasury. It's so strange that this phone would still be here in a building so largely renovated for modern use.
As a final note, in one of the old toilet cubicles was an old alcohol bottle. It's as if the person drank it on the last night before it ceased to be a theatre, left it here, and then this area just wasn't touched again.
Now about these toilets, I want to say that I am wary because in the past, my local newspaper has taken my blog content and twisted it to suit a scandal agenda. So I want to point out that the toilet facilities photographed are not in use by the Gala Bingo customers or staff. This entire area is cut off from the downstairs portion that is open to the public. Nothing depicted here is an accurate portrayal of how the Gala Bingo Hall operates today. The actual parts that are open to the public are cleaned and maintained.
The majority of the toilet facilities of the old cinema area were gone, but one could see where they had been. But strongly aware that this building was an active site, I was reluctant to explore further downstairs where the bingo is played. Already this adventure was controversial, because I very rarely explore active sites. In this case I'm exploring a disused portion of an active site, much like that time I went in that disused cellar in the Hole in the Wall, or that creche under the Rat Run. And it's cheeky, lets be honest. Which is why it's doubly important to pile on the disclaimers that I do respect these sites. Trespass without force is only a civil offence. It would be criminal were we to damage anything, but Tree Surgeon and I touched nothing. I came here entirely to observe, and I've only now published it now that I'm certain nobody else can get in.
As mentioned, rooftopping in Shrewsbury is becoming quite a popular sport. And given my local newspapers past scandal articles where facts have been twisted and fabricated to suit an agenda that I didn't agree with, it puts me in a tricky situation with the local rooftoppers because while I am in no way responsible for any of them, the fact that I am arguably the loudest internet presence for this sport in Shrewsbury means that should they mess up, I might end up associated with it. At least that's what worries me. I can't, for this reason, condone their actions. I don't know them, and I don't know if their motives for doing the same thing as me are the same motives as mine. But at the same time, I also don't believe I have any place to oppose them. I personally don't think any human being should have control of any other human being. These are free spirits doing this. I will, however, offer this advice to anyone in Shrewsbury doing what I do- Be safe. Be respectful. Don't be an arse.
It was a huge relief to get into the old Granada Theatre when I did, and to be able to write about it now that the opening has gone. What an amazing little secret hidden away in Shrewsbury!
The sun was rising when we came back up to the roof. It was worrying because we lost the element of stealth on the way down.
But to conclude the adventure, that was the last we saw of the Bingo Hall. That is, for me, a six year old itch that has finally been scratched. And it's very fitting that I got to do it for my 100th blog post. I've achieved what I wanted. I can retire now, put my feet up, work my way up the career ladder, start a family, think back fondly about the years I spent completely insane and exploring my hometown from the rooftops and underground tunnels, watch my children Donny and Syphilis (Phil for short) grow up and start families of their own. That's it for Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not. I'm done. Finished. This is my last adventure.
At least until the next one! Did you really think my life could be like that, all sane and whatnot? I'm all about adventure.
And chaos. Adventure and chaos. The chaoticness of existence is truly a fascinating aspect to my life. I'm a massive ponderer of the butterfly affect and how it impacts on my existence.
Take this blogs history for example. The internet isn't good or evil. It's a tool, much like my camera. It can be used to photograph the things that I photograph but a more sinister individual could use it for perverted purposes. The internet is no different. If used correctly it could become the best thing humanity has. When I first started this blog, I was mixing with a crowd who were completely swallowed by apathy towards the world around them, except when it came to dragging other people down to similar levels of uselessness. And I too was wallowing in cynicism, and putting the minimum amount of effort needed to keep myself alive long enough to complain about someone else while going nowhere myself. I was wasting my life. And then, without naming names, I began dating a person who happened to be completely divergent from my usual established type, who happened to be a positive influence. While this person is no longer in my life, such is the way of things, I gotta give credit where credits due. Had that one little thing not happened, I probably would have gone back to wallowing with the toxic crowd. This person showed me that there were healthier circles out there for me to join if I could just recover from my cynicism. And that's what I am- a recovered cynic, on top of being a survivor of child abuse, former hobo, and an overall pillar of joy and happiness in spite of my resting serial killer face. I love life! And sure enough, when I cut the toxic people out, I think this blog reflected that. There was a massive upward surge of views that coincided with when I finally became a happy human being. And literally everyone in my life now has come into it because of this blog. Tree Surgeon came into my life through this blog and now he's one of my best friends, and a fellow adventurer. I met the radio guy, Jim Hawkins, and through him I met a plethora of lovely humans at the Pop Up & Chat meet ups. My friendship with Giselle, whose photography projects I've modeled for, never would have happened if not for this blog. Without this blog I never would have met my friend and fellow blogger, Chelsea the Adventurer, and she would have never given me the idea to put a donate button on this blog, that through reader donations got me the camera that has truly made this blog come to life and enhanced my excellent life. And I've met countless others. It's amazing how a simple experience in life can set so much more in motion. And that is why I often request that people do go out and put a smile on peoples faces. Compliment a stranger today! The smallest thing can make all the difference.
I just feel the need to say that. I feel the need to promote positivity towards other humans, because at the moment we all seem so divided. There's a lot of fear and hate mongering going on.
But recently I met a bunch of friends and a horde of my Instagram followers when I attended a vigil in Shrewsbury for the victims of the shooting in Orlando, Florida. While the shooting was at a gay club, the fear mongering media prefers villains over victims and largely ignored the fact that it was a hate crime in favour of pushing their anti-muslim agenda. I personally think that if bad people are going to be bad people then religion is an excuse rather than a reason. At the Shrewsbury Vigil there was an overwhelming sense of positivity. Sure there was a sense of mourning and loss as well, but positivity from unity. That is what is important. This is a community of people who have had to hide their existence for so long, and just as it looks like the world is reaching a point where it's okay for them to be who they are, something tragic happens to remind them that they're not out of the woods yet. And do they return to hiding? No, they stand tall and fearless. I want to say, its an impressive testament to humanities progress that in the nineties being gay was still quite tabboo, and we're not even a quarter of the way into the 21st Century yet and we're already at a point where the majority of people are accepting of it. We've made huge progress. In regards to gender, it's is following slightly behind, but we're getting there too. The world is having to accept concepts that were baffling and unheard of until relatively recently. There are people in the world who do need to Grow The Fuck Up. But they're not the majority. They seem that way sometimes because they're so loud and aggressive when they do speak, but the majority of people are okay. I am sure of it. We're building an exciting future. I was very moved by the positivity I found at this vigil in Shrewsbury. It had with it the same feeling I'd felt at the protest for the Rape Blogger, Roosh V. Events that display the human race as it is supposed to be- unfied. And taking on the hard times together, so that we can all reach that common goal- to be happy.
Anyway, share this blog if you enjoy it, and follow me over on Instagram and Twitter. And if you can spare the pennies, click the donate button up at the top and contribute to the go-pro fund so that I can expand this blog onto youtube. You might remember Michael of Moments with Mike did a go-pro video of an abandoned nursing home. It really got me wanting one of my own. All proceeds from the donate button will go to making Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not better than ever.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Stay awesome!