KHAKI FEVER AT THE FINSBURY PARK RINK CINEMA: GENDER, SEXUALITY AND MODERNITY, 1913-1919
Speaker: Alex Rock (De Montfort University)
In the 1910s, the potentialities of the new social space of the cinema were under constant scrutiny by the British ruling classes, who were deeply suspicious of the opportunities offered by the dark, largely unsupervised new auditoria springing up throughout the country. Intertwined with this cultural anxiety was a sense that the old ‘Victorian’ systems of morality and sexual governance were slipping away. The ‘khaki fever’ moral panic, identified and discussed by Angela Woollacott in 1994, proved to be the means through which society interpreted these developments. In 1914, young women were, according to the protectionist centre-right press, exerting their own sexual independence, chasing soldiers for ‘treats’ and rejecting the sexual passivity of their Victorian forebears. In order to combat this, the British government introduced legislative measures to limit late-Edwardian sexual permissiveness in an attempt to prevent the spread of venereal infection from affecting the number of soldiers sent to the battlefields of France and Belgium.
Women patrols were, at this point, incorporated into the Metropolitan Police, acting as a form of ‘sex police’ by patrolling sites of particular cultural resonance in order to prevent the rise of sexual permissiveness. What appears to have been at stake in this period is both the right of women to work within the police force and the right of younger women to express their sexual independence. Both camps, however, chose to make the cinema their battleground. This paper takes, as a case study, police observations and reports regarding the Rink Cinema, Finsbury Park, to assess the extent to which these various intertwining threads were indicative not only of generational and moral anxieties, but also of the general fear of the transformative influence of modernity upon British society.
Alex Rock is based at De Montfort University in Leicester, and is currently carrying out PhD research into the history of collaborations between the British film industry and the state from the formation of the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau in 1919 until the demise of Ealing Studios in the late Fifties. Alex’s research interests include the history of cinema exhibition, and he has recently written a history of the Clifton cinema chain which is awaiting publication in a forthcoming edition of Post Script.
Time and Date: 5:15 PM, Monday, 5th March.
Location: Bloomsbury Room (Room G35), Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
All are welcome. For more information, please contact Dion Georgiou, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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