RAF Cardington Camp

Astra Cinema & Dance Hall

Astra jpeg

The Astra cinema at RAF Cardington painted by Michael Spavins

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to show this fabulous painting of the Astra Cinema at RAF Cardington by Michael Spavins who was a civilian worker on the camp between 1959-1965. His memories of the cinema taken from an interview with Alan Thomas are shown below* along with Alan's own recollections of the cinema.
*The full interview of Mick Spavins can be found in the Peoples Gallery Civilian Workers section.

It is known that a cinema of sorts existed as far back as the 1920's on the camp. According to a leaflet handed to all personnel on arrival at the camp to be demobbed after WWII the cinema was showing films every weekday evening and twice on Sundays. The leaflet refers to the cinema as the 'Station Cinema' but at some point later it was known as The Astra. This name was not unique to Cardington as all RAF cinemas up and down the country were given the same name.

Thank you Mr Spavins - not only for the beautiful painting but also for sharing your memories of the cinema with us.

Memories of the Astra Cinema at RAF Cardington - Alan Thomas

Below is the account of RAF Postal Clerk Alan Thomas* who worked at the cinema as projectionist between 1963-65 on his return to RAF Cardington after enlisting there in 1960.

"RAF Cardington had a very modern Station Cinema (Astra) which was located behind the old gymnasium. It had provided entertainment for many a recruit, however, during 1963 it was in the main kept open from Sunday to Wednesday to provide entertainment for the Technical Apprentices who were not permitted to leave the camp. Whilst stationed at RAF Oakington I had spent some time working in the Station Cinema during my off duty hours and had completed an RAF Projectionist Course. This qualification for better or for worse soon had a bearing on my off duty hours. With a grin on his face Sgt Chambers quitely took me to one side and said that on the authority of the Station Commander I was to assume secondary duty post of Cinema Manager. This was normally a duty performed by a Sgt however in the absence of any volunteers this requirement had been waived.

Cardington Dances

I suspect this section will grow and grow! It is well known that the dances held at RAF Cardington were extremely popular with special buses laid on from Bedford and the surrounding areas. Over the years many singers, bands, and groups have performed - however little evidence remains! If you have any memories of the dances/performers please send them in.