One of the things that makes the Electric Palace such a great place to visit is our fabulous, dedicated volunteer team. 

So, who are the people who welcome you when you head up the stairs to the cinema? Find out in our Meet the Volunteers series...

Name: Bill Sukhbir

What prompted you to volunteer at the cinema?

A Jewish friend from my dancing days used to say that whenever he travelled abroad for work the first thing he would do on arriving at his destination was to look for "...salsa and a synagogue". My way of finding what feels like a home from home is to discover rep cinemas for all of their cosiness and delicious anticipation of the cinematic experiences that might come my way. 

By pure chance (or was it?) on my first day in Old Town after moving to Hastings in 2015 I struck up a conversation with a local man who turned out to be a volunteer and my fate was sealed... 

What's your favourite thing about the cinema?

Its size: big enough to feel like a cinema and small enough to have a sense of a shared experience whatever the screening.

What special perk do you love as a volunteer at the Electric Palace?

As a volunteer I love seeing how audiences engage with screenings en masse and to see films that wouldn't normally be on my watch-list.

Tell us about an experience at the cinema (not necessarily at the Electric Palace).

Oh, that would be all-nighters at the Scala cinema in Kings Cross during the 1980s and early '90s.

I'd usually hook-up with a few friends after work on a Friday, head off to the pub then trundle in to the cinema at around 11pm after picking up supplies at the late night supermarket to get us through the night. The screenings were themed and would be around some popular or classic genre or other - cult comedy, horror, arthouse, and so on.

They'd usually screen about five films back-to-back before turfing us out early the following morning when we'd find somewhere for breakfast before heading home to grab some sleep. I think that the format, location and clientele meant that audience participation was fun, vocal and pretty uninhibited, which meant it always felt special.

But, no night was complete unless you had the purring sound of the Scala cat in your ear at some point, sidling up for a tasty morsel or two from whatever you were eating. Leaving the darkness of a cinema to emerge into sunlight is such a special feeling.

Volunteers at the Electric Palace sometimes see movies they may not have planned to watch, occasionally outside of their comfort zone or usual taste. Tell us about a film you saw at the Electric Palace that took you by surprise.

I saw The Wolfpack (Crystal Moselle 2015), a really odd documentary about six brothers brought up in a New York apartment to which they'd been confined by their obsessive and controlling father. Strange, intriguing and disturbing all at once.

If you could go on a date night at the cinema with anyone living, dead or fictional who would it be and what would you watch?

That's a tough one because it would probably be Nic Roeg to watch any of his films from the 1970s to get his take on the many-layered depths in his work. Except, I'd never actually want to date the guy, even if he was still alive!

Tell us about a favourite film of yours.

Well, how about Bertolucci's 1900? Epic, stylish, almost every frame composed to work as a still and superbly casted. There are so many ways to watch a film, but this one stands out because it helped me to be more aware of the mastery of technique.

Tell us a good film to watch that makes you laugh out loud or blub your eyes out.

My Life as a Dog (Lasse Halstrom 1985). I think the hardest thing is to make a genuinely optimistic film that doesn't come across as trite or glib. Despite its flaws, I go back to this one every few years because it has the power and authenticity to put me in the same place that I was in when I first saw it and to genuinely make me laugh and want to cry in equal measure.

Do you have a memory to share about a great film night at the cinema?

Well, it was a great film 'day' at the cinema; 29 August 1992.

A friend had published David McGillivray's book, Doing Rude Things - A history of the British sex film 1957-1981. He hired a local cinema for the launch and invited as many of the stalwarts and starlets of the genre that he could find to add their bit of sparkle to the day and to regale us with introductions to screenings, anecdotes and scandalous gossip from their careers. 

If I remember correctly, at least two films that were screened burned out in the projector before our very eyes, never to be seen again as they were the only surviving copies. The day was hilarious, profane, profound and utterly memorable.

What's a great soundtrack you listen to?

The soundtrack from Chef (Jon Favreau 2014). So good that I've never got round to watching the film!

What's your favourite seat?

My fold-out volunteer's chair at the back and centre of the cinema. I get a perfect view of the screen as I'm at the head of the central aisle and can relate to the audience reaction throughout the screening.

Finally, tell us something unusual about yourself. 

I have on occasion woken up to total, panic-inducing blindness, only to realise that I haven't opened my eyes yet.

Find out more about volunteering at the Electric Palace