After graduating from Stirling, Ally moved to London to be near the music and film industries and (while simultaneously playing with three different bands!) worked his way up the ranks of HMV to become store manager of the Bayswater and then Selfridges branches.
When it was clear the market for physical entertainment products was fracturing, Ally moved to running cinemas. He started in the Genesis cinema in Whitechapel in 2011, a five-screen cinema, somewhat unloved and with an audience similarly at risk of fracturing in attendance to other newer cinemas opening in East London. But, along with the owner Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, a former East End roofer and film producer, they built the cinema’s audience back again through a refurbishment; a new café and cocktail bar, an open policy of private and public events, a luxury screen, and discounted week day tickets for all. Ally’s management produced year on year growth for three consecutive years and in 2016 the cinema was awarded Cinema of the Year (25 screens and under) at the Screen awards.
In 2015, he moved to running the historic Curzon Soho, part of the Curzon Cinemas estate. The Curzon Soho is a home for arthouse, independent and foreign language cinema and is world renowned. At the end of 2014, it was announced that the Curzon Soho was under threat due to the development of the Crossrail 2 scheme which designated the block where Curzon Soho is situated for demolition as part of the CR2 Tottenham Court Road station. Ally was part of the Save Curzon Soho campaign which included a short film, a series of special screenings, a Save Curzon Soho mural inside the cinema and a feature in the Observer in 2016. Ally worked as General Manager at Soho for a year before becoming a Regional Manager and looking after 9 of Curzon’s cinemas across the UK including its newest cinema in Aldgate which opened in January 2017.
In February 2017, Curzon established its reputation by being awarded the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA for its cinemas, distribution company Curzon Artificial Eye, and innovative on-demand service Curzon Home Cinema.
I gained so much from the University of Stirling. Less from the actual degree I gained but from the experience of learning and the positive impact of an education it gave me. I learned about film history from some wonderful lecturers (John Izod highest among them) and this instilled in me a strong desire to work in an area connected to my passions and hobbies.
If I could give current Stirling students one piece of advice I would be don’t feel you need to rush into a ‘career job’ when you leave university. Enjoy your life when you’re young – a career will happen upon you at the right time.
English and Film and Media Joint Hons, 2001