Pedal-powered promotions: Remembering the Dodgers of Norwich

The Dodger crew gather outside the old Norvic cinema in Norwich.

Made it! The Dodger crew gather outside the old Norvic cinema in Norwich after cycling through the city centre. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

If you wanted to advertise a film or an event in days gone by… 'Dodger' Kerrison was the boy to call on. One of the greatest of all Norwich characters.

And you hit the jackpot if the movie featured bicycles. The world-famous Dodger and the rest of the Kerrison family were indeed the barons of the bike world.

Mr "Dodger" Kerrison with a World War One bicycle that has beeen brought to his shop in Cambridge St

Mr "Dodger" Kerrison with a World War One bicycle that has beeen brought to his shop in Cambridge Street for repairs. The picture shows the rifle strappings on the bike, which is believed to be a B.S.J. model. It may look dated, but no doubt, once restored, this sturdy model will be good for another half-century. Date: September 15, 1975. - Credit: Archant Library

There was no one better to attract the punters into the foyer and if proof were needed take a look at these old pictures, getting the message out about the film Smiley, when it was showing at the once-grand Norvic cinema, formerly the Electric Theatre, on Prince of Wales Road.

Members of the Norwich Dodgers cycle cavalcade heading along Gentleman’s Walk.

Members of the cycle cavalcade promoting the 1956 film Smiley in Gentleman’s Walk, with Percy and Elsie riding the Olympia trike and Ivan (Freddie’s son) behind on a Bantam bike. - Credit: Courtesy of family collection

Smiley was a film made in 1956 about a small boy, Smiley Greevins, played by Colin Petersen, living in the Australian outback, who is determined to buy himself a push-bike.

The film Smiley.

Vintage movie poster for the film Smiley. - Credit: Courtesy of family collection

The photographs following the Dodger cavalcade around the city all those years ago paint a great picture of life at the time, such a different world to the one we live in today.


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They cut a dash on the streets promoting the film on their own Raleigh cycles and the Regent also showed a film starring Dodgers Old Time Cycling Club in a Pathe Pictorial picture special.

Men on unusual bicycles head towards Bank Plain from Castle Meadow, Norwich

The Dodgers heading onto Bank Plain from Castle Meadow, Norwich. - Credit: Family Collection

You could say the Dodgers - there was George Kerrison, Percy, Freddie and the rest of the family - were our very own film stars.

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The display outside the old Norvic cinema, a Prince of Wales Road landmark, certainly hit the spot, but just five years later the demolition men moved in to destroy the building.

Yes it was 60 years ago, in 1961, when this once magnificent building closed and was pulled down.

It opened as the Electric Theatre back in 1912. Built by F H Cooper of Wisbech and designed by his friend Frances Ward also of Wisbech.

The wonderful old Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich

The wonderful old Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, in 1912 and attracted customers from far and wide. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

A glimpse inside the Electric Theatre on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich.

A glimpse inside the Electric Theatre on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

This was a theatre at the beating heart of the Norfolk entertainment scene. Packed out night after night. In 1929 almost 90,000 people saw the talking picture Sunny Side Up during its five-week run.

As times changed, the cinema audience dwindled. After the war it changed its name to the Norvic and carried on in business until 1961.

The wonderful old Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich in 1912

The front of the Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, in 1912 and attracted customers from far and wide. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Peter Cossey of Movie Shop fame, recalled how the Norvic was a popular meeting place for teenagers on a Friday night. A place where boys met girls.

In his great book Memories of Norwich Cinemas he remembered how one night the harassed middle-aged manager was provoked beyond endurance.

He turned the lights up in the middle of the film and rushed down the aisle, turned to face the lads and screamed: “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! – there are people trying to watch the film – SHUT UP!”

The wonderful old Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich in 1912

Staff outside the Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, in 1912 and attracted customers from far and wide. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The Norwich Electric Theatre at night

City scene at night: the old Electric Theatre which opened on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, in 1912. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The last film was Wild in the Country with Elvis Presley. They closed early on the last night because they heard a gang of Teddy Boys were on their way to cause a spot of trouble.

And that was the end of the show…

The Dodgers of Norwich outside the old Norvic cinema.

The Dodgers of Norwich outside the old Norvic cinema. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

A highly entertaining book, The Story of Dodger’s of Norwich by family members Ronnie Green and Dawn Castle-Green and edited by Matthew Williams is in the shops and online.

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