Origins of SCTBF and a brief history.
The cinema industry during the Great War was very active in fund raising for charitable purposes. The first time a cinema opened on a Sunday in Glasgow, in April 1915 was for a charity orchestral concert for the Red Cross, followed by special matinees from May onwards for the Belgian Relief Fund. In October that year the trade nationally established the Cinematograph Ambulances Fund with a target £30,000 to provide ambulances for the front line. By March 1916 it was reported that these were in service in Mesopotamia. There were special appeals to send Christmas boxes to the trenches, the Cinema Boys Cigarettes Fund. ‘keep our boys supplied with smokes’ and special days collecting for the French Red Cross when official French war films were shown. At the time of the Battle of the Somme it was the Limbless Soldiers and Sailors Fund who were being supported.
The trade was well aware of the increasing toll of wounded and killed. The trade paper Scottish Kinema Record instituted a Roll of Honour for news of trade employees killed or wounded in the fighting. A Cinema Trade Employment Bureau for Wounded Sailors and Soldiers was established running training courses in projection for those returning home from active service.
However it was not until April 1917 that some in the Scottish trade first started to voice their concerns publicly through the pages of the Scottish Kinema Record about the impact on the cinematograph industry in losing 'some of its brightest young men.' And 'now that these men have made the supreme sacrifice our thoughts turn to those left behind, the wives and children. If assistance is needed let it never be said in this connection we left a duty undone'. In May a committee was assembled to advise on the creation of a fund.This committee included exhibitors JJ Bennell and Thomas Ormiston.
Meanwhile the projectionists had been active in setting up their own charitable relief with the Cinema Operators Fund and were running outings for wounded servicemen.
In November the new Scottish Cinematograph Trade Benevolent Fund published its draft constitution with its two principal aims: 'Cases of distress arising from the present war and such other cases of distress and urgency as shall be approved by the management committee’.
Eligibility fell 'to persons actually employed in cinema trade in Scotland at the time of enlistment or at the time when their distress arises, or the dependents of such person'. Thomas Ormiston was appointed Secretary of the Fund.
In December 1917 the Fund was registered under the War Charities Act of 1916 and announced its first target fund raising of £4000 (equivalent today of £165,000). A subscription list was opened and the first donation received was £30 (£1500) from the Cinema Operators Fund.
By April 1918 the fund had raised some £700 from subscriptions and fund raising events were underway across the country, Aberdeen exhibitors doing particularly well from their Sunday concert series. Exhibitors across Scotland were being urged to make Empire Day 24 May the event of the industry's history in Scotland'. The reason given that it is for the' trade's own fund'. The First Annual Dinner to inaugurate the Fund was held on the back of the Scottish CEA Conference in September 1919 and was well supported. It was reported that several deserving cases had already been helped.
The Fund did not escape criticism in its early years with some questioning its relevance and by late 1920 the Scottish Kinema Record was bemoaning a perceived inactivity in organising fund raising events over the previous year. The appointment of Thomas Ormiston as Chairman in September 1920 was welcomed as fresh injection of energy into the scheme.
In 1920 began a relationship that was to benefit the Fund for decades. The Glasgow Cinema Club had been formed the year before and in April they held the first of what was to become an annual event in the trade calendar in Scotland, the Cinema Fancy Dress Ball. The first ball realised profits that were distributed to a number of charities £40 to infirmaries, £40 to the Fund for Broken Men and £25 to SCTBF and set a pattern for fund raising, led to other of Scotland organising Dinner Dances and Balls. Link here for more details
The Cinema Sunday screenings, instituted during the First World War generated significant sums over the years.
The Annual Report of the Fund for 1935, in the midst of the national economic depression, records its thanks to the many exhibitors who held special performances, concerts, balls etc, to the renters for providing films free of charge and to those subscribers who supported the Fund. The capital worth of the Fund was just over £16,000 (nearly £1m in modern equivalent) with 133 cases assisted during the year at a cost of £1713 (£103,000). The Annual Report includes an analysis of the cases dealt with that illustrates the breadth of support given across the trade: operators, managers, cleaners, doormen, proprietors, musician, despatch clerk, attendant, cashier, film traveller, and widows and dependents.
The industry was once again on war footing in 1939 with the attendent charitable activities, shows for refugees, the military and a slew of fund raising for war related charities. The energy and activity of the trade in Scotland was remarked upon by Kine Weekly who devoted a special issue to Scotland in January 1945 noting 'the truly magnificent work that the Scottish Trade has done for charity. SCTBF is a very fine instituion. It is autonomous and distinct from the fund in England. It deals with every case of distress not only in Scotland but of Scots who have gone to England and fallen on evil days'. Noting a long list of distinguised office bearers (Tom Ormiston, David Stewart, Bert Green, Willie Kempsell and William Mann of Pathe) 'it is pleasant to think that in such a democratic city as Glasgow this magnificent work is not confined to the more prosperous exhibitors. The Fund's Chairman today is James Currie, Chief operator at the Blythswood Picture House Maryhill'.
SCTBF revised its rules and Constitution in 1944 'to maintain a Fund for the relief of cases of distress, urgency or necessity arising amongs persons engaged in the cinematograph or film trade in Scotland for a continuous period of one year, or the relatives and/or dependents of any such persons'.
In 1934 Thomas Ormiston presented the Ormiston Shield for cinema staff collections to compete for (Read about it here), and in 1973 the Jerry Coussins Trophy was offered for an independent single cinema with the highest collection. Coussins was Scottish Manager of Pearl and Dean, and in 1962 President of the Glasgow Cinema Club. The Lily Watt cup was up for award for the highest collection from any single cinema which is part of a booking circuit of eight or more cinemas. Lily Watt was manageress of the Odeon, Coatbridge.
SCTBF, unlike its cousin in the south the CTBF, never embraced its sibling industry television. It remains today a fund supporting employees of the cinema exhibition and distribution industry.