Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Children killed in Paisley cinema disaster remembered

Former Glen Cinema in Paisley
Almost 1,000 children were in the cinema at the time of the tragedy

A ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of Britain's worst cinema disaster, in which 71 children died, is to be held in Renfrewshire.

The tragedy at Glen Cinema, Paisley, on 31 December 1929, unfolded when smoke from a film canister caused panic inside the auditorium.

The children who died were crushed when escape doors failed to open.

Several survivors will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Paisley Cenotaph on Thursday morning.

Almost 1,000 children were inside the cinema for a matinee performance of action-packed films when the tragedy unfolded.

An assistant film operator spotted smoke coming from a film container.

At the time they were taken away to West Kilbride for about a week just to help them forget but the message at the time was 'you don't talk about these things you just put them behind you'
Piero Pieraccini
Paisley Development Trust

He tried to smother the highly flammable film but the container sprang open and smoke and fumes entered the auditorium.

In the resulting stampede to leave the cinema hundreds of children rushed to stairs which led down to exit doors.

Many were crushed by the force of the other children behind them as the emergency exit doors were designed to open inwards instead of out.

By the time rescuers smashed their way into the cinema through the windows about 150 children were either dead or injured.

Piero Pieraccini is chairman of Paisley Development Trust which has commissioned a film about the disaster called "The Legacy of The Glen Cinema".

'Trauma clinics'

He said: "There's a lot of interest in the Glen Cinema disaster because the story itself is so traumatic and the events which unfolded helped to change the law here and in other countries.

"The thing that gets me the most is that up until about five years ago the survivors never spoke about it. Not with each other, their parents or anyone.

"At the time they were taken away to West Kilbride for about a week just to help them forget but the message at the time was 'you don't talk about these things you just put them behind you'.

"Nowadays you'd have a team of counsellors and they would have been taken into trauma clinics and had plenty of support."



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