Re­vealed: haimishe ori­gins of one of Lon­don’s hippest cin­e­mas

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

WHEN CLARA Lud­ski set up one of Bri­tain’s first cin­e­mas in 1909, women could not vote, no­body had heard of the Ti­tanic and Arch­duke Franz Fer­di­nand was alive and well.

Aged 47, Mrs Lud­ski, the daugh­ter of Jewish im­mi­grants from Prus­sia, start- ed a small “nick­elodeon” — a screen­ing room — in the back of her auc­tion shop in Dal­ston, north-east Lon­don.

The Kings­land Palace, as it was known, was so suc­cess­ful that she sub­se­quently bought the prop­er­ties on ei­ther side of the build­ing to de­velop a sin­gle-screen pic­ture­house. To do this, she com­mis­sioned Ge­orge Coles, one of the most pro­lific cin­ema ar­chi­tects.

The pic­ture­house, which may have screened Yid­dish films, has had nu­mer­ous in­car­na­tions since then — in­clud­ing a brief stint as an adult movie the­atre in the 1970s — but op­er­ates as the Rio to­day and is one of the old­est sur­viv­ing in­de­pen­dent cin­e­mas in Bri­tain.

Last week, the JC was con­tacted by Oliver Meek, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the char­ity-run cin­ema, who was hop­ing to trace Mrs Lud­ski’s de­scen­dants.

He said: “The Rio is 102 years old in its cur­rent in­car­na­tion but it was started in 1909 by Clara Lud­ski. We don’t know a great deal more than that.”

The 400-seat cin­ema will soon un­dergo ren­o­va­tions, in­clud­ing the open­ing of a smaller au­di­to­rium called the Lud­ski Screen. Mr Meek had hoped to find de­scen­dants of Mrs Lud­ski who may know more about her.

Thanks to the re­search of Fraser and Fraser, one of the world’s largest

pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gists, the JC has dis­cov­ered that Mrs Lud­ski was born in Southamp­ton to par­ents Au­gusta Phillips and Lip­man Gold­smith, a cloth­ing out­fit­ter, and went on to have four chil­dren — though she was only sur­vived by two.

When Deb­o­rah Goodman em­barked on an act­ing ca­reer more than 30 years ago, she be­lieved she was the first in her fam­ily to en­ter the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness.

But thanks to the con­nec­tion made by the JC and Fraser & Fraser, she has since learned that her great-grand­mother was a pi­o­neer of Bri­tish cin­ema his­tory.

Though she has run her own suc­cess­ful arts and en­ter­tain­ment PR con­sul­tancy for two decades, Ms Goodman started her ca­reer as an ac­tress. Her many cred­its in­clude star­ring op­po­site An­thony Sher in The Mer­chant of Venice and ap­pear­ing in Yentl.

Mean­while, as a PR she has rep­re­sented many well-known clients, among them Richard Curtis, Chan­nel 4 and the UK Jewish Film Fes­ti­val.

So it came as a pleas­ant sur­prise to learn that the arts are in her genes.

“I’m still in shock,” she said.

Speak­ing from her of­fice in Mill Hill, Ms Goodman added: “It sounds like Clara was a fan­tas­tic busi­ness- woman and some­body who was pas­sion­ate about the arts, like me. “She wasn’t a per­former but a dy­namic busi­ness woman in an age be­fore women could vote, which is ex­tra­or­di­nary.” Be­lieved to have orig­i­nally held up to 1,200 peo­ple, the cin­ema passed from the Lud­ski fam­ily af­ter Clara’s death in 1933. Now Grade II listed, the im­pres­sive build­ing had a hexag­o­nal tower over the en­trance and was dec­o­rated in Gre­cian style. It fea­tured a tea room and gallery, as well as an or­ches­tra en­clo­sure. This week the JC in­tro­duced Ms Goodman to Mr Meek, who has in­vited her and her fam­ily to visit the venue. “The Rio has had quite an ex­tra­or­di­nary his­tory,” said Mr Meek, who has launched a fundrais­ing cam­paign called Rio-gen­er­a­tion. “I don’t know of many busi­ness peo­ple that were women at that time, so we’re re­ally keen to know more about Clara, who must have been quite some­thing. “This is not just about de­vel­op­ing the cin­ema for the fu­ture but ce­ment­ing its place in the past.” Ms Goodman added: “It’s very ex­cit­ing and we hope to find out more about Clara, plus a fam­ily re­union at the Rio would be lovely.”

A fam­ily re­union at the Rio would be lovely’

Deb­o­rah Goodman

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