I’ve written this post a thousand times over in my mind. But now that I am actually sat down with my laptop the words I am typing are very different. I know I have a lot to say. And perhaps what’s most difficult about that is knowing that I quite simply won’t be able to say it all; there is a lump in whatever the typing version of my throat is. When we started this blog, and I took on the task of maintaining it – with stories, a love for film, cinema-going and programming information – I never thought about this moment. To be honest, I never thought about any of it finishing.
But here I sit, hunched over my laptop, drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and scrabbling for words. If I were to put it in a letter it might be easier to say. Please read what’s below knowing that it’s as candid as I know how to be, and that I’m not writing it to create anything other than the most honest goodbye I can say. I am truly humbled and want to say thank you. I also want to express something of the immense joy I have experienced in my time at The Astor.
Dearest grand old dame, dearest George, dearest audience, dearest reader,
I’m not very good at saying goodbye. Some years ago my life took an unexpected turn and I lost something that was precious to me. It was painful in a way I hadn’t encountered before and I simply didn’t know how to deal with it. What happened next was that I felt overwhelmed and the only thing I could think of to do was to go home. So I bought a one-way ticket to Australia and turned up in a town where everything was different and where my home didn’t exist anymore.
I felt completely lost.
Then I saw a call out for people to help write the Astor’s e-news. Some of my most formative, memorable and exciting cinema experiences were at the Astor – to this day I tell people about the first time I stepped inside its doors and how completely it filled me with wonder. George and I started emailing. Jet lagged and lost in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs I had found a connection. And then the emails morphed into a real life conversation.
When I first met George it felt like we’d known each other forever. Some friendships are just like that. We spent a few hours talking about film, life, and how one had shaped us both. After the curtain closed that night, George offered me a job in the ticket box. I’d worked in cinemas before but this was The Astor and I knew right away that it was the beginning of something special.
Every day after that, as ticket selling gave way to so much more, the emptiness I’d been feeling began to disappear and joy filtered into all of the spaces inside me that I thought could never be filled. I felt found and it was honestly a saving grace.
Over the years that followed I built some of the most remarkable friendships I imagine I will ever have; with staff, patrons, and cinema. It was like falling in love just when I thought my heart was broken beyond repair.
I can’t tell you how difficult this goodbye is for me, as I know it is for so many others. I don’t claim to have a greater connection to that feeling. The only thing I can claim is my experience of being a part of The Astor as George created it. That experience has been life changing. It has been so immense that my entire being has been altered; for which I am grateful, humbled and proud.
There’s too much to talk about in trying to define what that experience has meant to me singularly, but I can say this: this goodbye has to be about saying thank you. I want to thank George for everything – simply everything. I want to thank everyone at the theatre, and everyone I worked with over the past five years. I want to thank everyone who ever came to the theatre and enjoyed a show, and those who couldn’t but wrote heartfelt messages to us anyway.
It has been a privilege and a joy to maintain this blog just as it has been a privilege to experience what I have at The Astor – as a cinema-goer, as a member of staff, as a friend and as someone who found something beautiful at a time in their life when they thought they never would.
Mine is a goodbye that only has its voice because of everything George, his team, his cinema and the film-going community in Melbourne has given rise to. And for this I thank you most of all. It has been an absolute pleasure and a huge honour to speak for such a remarkable and unique cinema-going experience.
Goodbye; thank you.