Video shops, VHS and childhood memories

Originally published on Liverpool Small Cinema

The video shop in West Derby was little more than a box room at the end of some shops. It was here. It was a single room, tiny. The windows were taken up with shelving to cram in as much stock as they could. I think it was called Crown Video, a nod to the fact it was close to that road, rather than aspirations of grandeur. Although the only person online talking about that little space is me in somebody else’s blog.

That feels odd to me, the little space, so filled with delights must have had hundreds of people through its doors in the early 80s, and nobody seems to talk about it online.

It was an exciting place, at least to me. The video nasties scare had made people think of tape as contraband or potentially dangerous and here I was eyeing up as many tapes as I could. Oddly the one I was most scared of was this one, which, at the very least, meant that I had an eye for a Vincent Price film, even at a young age.

It was a benefit of its size, although that is probably why it closed, that made the experience so intoxicating. You were hemmed into a tight space with all these lurid covers trying to entice you and, because of the space, horror sat with comedy and action with a nod to the kids’ section having to be so close to everything else.

VHS was a treat, something to mark something special, a moment. As I got older, and Crown Video closed, I had to head over to Eaton Road’s Freeze Frame Video, a larger space with more money behind it. There was more selection but it wasn’t as exciting for me.

At this point video-tape was pretty much the way I saw friends. We’d grab a tape and head over to somebody’s house.  Initially it was action movies, in particular Schwarzenegger (it was the 90s after all) but gradually horror too. It was great, a small community screening between me and mates. Loads of cups of tea and godawful cheap sweets from the afternoon later into the evening.

It’s these experiences, ones that children and adults across the country shared in the 80s and 90s that we want to reflect in May.


First up we are closing Light Night on May 13th with a slasher classic. One of the bad boys of the 80s video boom. Friday the 13th screening on VHS.

Our first midnight screening, doors will be open from 11pm with trailers and video goodness through to the start at 11.45pm. Expect plenty of gory deaths, daft acting and the odd bit of tracking too, as a gang of kids got to Camp Crystal Lake and discover that not everything is as it seems.

Friday the 13th took lots of tropes from other films, especially Mario Bava’s Bay Of Blood and injected it was plenty of nubile teens and the special effects work of Tom Savini. It’s very different to what the series becomes and stands as an interesting piece of Hollywood horror.

Then, on May 25, Ross Sutherland brings his one-man show Stand By For Tape Back-Up  to Liverpool Small Cinema. The show looks at an old video tape his grandfather used to own and tells stories of his life through the medium of tape.

Bold and touching the piece is as much about how pop culture can become intertwined with deeply personal moments.

It’s a meditation on how tape was such an integral part of our lives and, for more than one generation, the whirl of a cassette as the soundtrack to childhood.

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