Franco, a fine art student and a habitual skip diver, longs to find something exceptional. Pine doors and old flycatcher lightshades make good money when he sells them to Jerome’s Antiques but they don’t make his heart miss a beat.
The stout brown leather suitcase that he finds amidst the rubble is embossed with two initials, R.B., and weighs a ton. It’s hard to balance as he carries it on his pushbike back to the flat.
In his kitchen he hauls the suitcase onto the table and clicks open the brass locks. Shit, he groans, it’s just sodding newspaper. It’s the case that’s heavy, not what’s in it. He pulls the paper out and irritably chucks it on the floor. Wait a minute, he says, there is something. Jesus, a bloody Clarks’ shoe box! He lifts the box onto the table and dumps the suitcase on the floor.
The box is sealed with Sellotape; using his penknife he cuts the tape and opens the box. What’s this? He pulls out a strip of four frames of 35mm film with a label – ‘”Reach for the Sky” 1956’. He takes out a second strip of four frames; the label reads ‘”Three Coins in a Fountain” 1954’. He keeps removing strips of four frames of film until there are 287 stacked in a clean Tupperware box. Finally there is a folded sheet of paper. He opens it. His heart misses a beat. He reads a child’s handwriting.
I’m Pat Bevin. I’m 12. It’s 1958. I live at 179 Newport Road, the Universe, Galaxy, Solar system, Earth, Europe, Great Britain, Wales, South Wales, Glamorgan, Cardiff. My Dad, Reg, was the manager and projectionist of The Central Cinema – my REAL home. He stole these frames from the films he loved. When he died Mum was going to throw them away so I stole them and hid the suitcase in the attic. I hope one day someone will find them and remember Dad.
Years pass. Franco waits for the right gallery space to realise his exhibition concept of bringing a boy’s hope to life. Finally, the exhibition, ‘Homage’, opens at the Photographers’ Gallery. It consists of eleven hundred and forty eight 10×8 photographic prints of every frame that Franco found in the shoebox. Each set of four photographs, representing each film, is accompanied by an audio recording of someone saying what that film means to them. Pat’s letter is framed and hung at the entrance. The shoebox is displayed in a glass case.
The opening goes well and gets great reviews, partly because of the story of the stolen film clips.
Franco has always spent time in the galleries that have shown his work; he likes to hear what visitors think.
A man approaches Franco and asks, Are you the artist?
Hi, yes, and you are?
I’m Pat Bevin.
Pat, how wonderful to meet you. You once hoped that someone would remember your dad. Have I done him justice?
Dad would have loved it.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
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