As many of you will know, Rita died peacefully at home on Sunday 25th March following her brief, and characteristically brave, fight against cancer. Rita was Manageress of the Hall here for 20 years from its opening back in 1996. But more importantly for us, Rita was also a founder-member of The Fleapit and while she is best known as the Queen of the Ice Creams, her contribution behind the scenes went so much further. She was, for example, our resident aficionado on Golden Age Hollywood and many of our most popular choices from this period, be they comedy, drama or musical, were down to Rita. Never short on surprises, every selection meeting for the season’s films was peppered with Rita’s comment “Oh, I remember seeing that when it first came out…”, be it obscure foreign language, British or USA, followed by a usually accurate and pithy appraisal of the film. The matinees, oft the home of gems from the Golden Age were taken under her wing, providing cake and refreshments, she curated them too – but it would have taken someone particularly brave to call Rita a curator to her face. She had no time for such silliness and it was that direct, no-nonsense approach that made her so special a friend and so valuable a colleague.
Rita lived a rich 84 years, not one second of which was wasted sitting on the fence. She is part of our club’s DNA and we owe her much more than her self-deprecating modesty would ever accept or admit. She will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. Now, back to those ice creams. A rough calculation shows that Rita served and sold over 12,000 tubs during her reign – that’s over 1,200 kg (or 188 stones in English)!