Biography of the Kemp Family
George Kemp Ltd
Showmen, exhibitors, cinema proprietors and topical film makers.
George Kemp established the family business becoming a travelling showman in 1882. Using the stage name "President Kemp", he travelled with a freak show which contained all sorts of "living novelties". In1901 Kemp started his first Bioscope Show. A family affair Kemp was helped by his son Harry and his brother Walter, who ‘described’ or narrated the stories of the early silent films, for the benefit of the audience.
Kemp commissioned his third bioscope show in 1908. The "Theatre Unique" one of the most spectacular shows ever to appear on the fairground circuit. In 1907 son Harry had married Susan Green, the daughter of John Green and niece of George Green. As a wedding present President Kemp gave Harry a bioscope show and up until 1911 he travelled this show in competition with his father, though they remained the friendliest of rivals.
In 1911 George and Harry Kemp retired from the road and opened their first cinema, the "Pavilion" in Johnstone, Renfrewshire. Two years later on 6 October 1913, Kemps opened a second cinema, the "La Scala" in Saltcoats and in 1919 converted a wooden building across the street from the La Scala, which had been used as a dance hall during the war, into the "Casino Cinema" In 1925 President Kemp retired and son Harry took over the business.
In 1922 Harry introduced a series of concert parties during the summer season at the La Scala cinema in Saltcoats. The show was entitled "Scottish Clans" and ran for the full six weeks. It was the first of the now legendary Kemp Summer Shows which ran at venues up and down the Ayrshire Coast, the most famous of which was the Scotch Broth Entertainers whose show in 1925 was so successful that it went on a tour of Scotland and England.
Kemp’s only Glasgow city cinema, ‘The Capitol’ in Ibrox opened in April in April 1927. In 1930/31 the Casino Cinema in Saltcoats was demolished and replaced by the ‘Regal’.
In the 1960’s Harry Kemp had been joined by his two sons Frank and George and had moved into the amusement and gambling industry. Both the Regal and the La Scala cinemas in Saltcoats continued to run, and with Harry Kemp’s death in 1972 Frank and George took over, expanding the automatic gambling machine division of the company which was by now called "Harry Kemp Ltd.". The Regal being converted to bingo finally closing in the 1990’s.
The Travelling Cinematograph Show by K Scrivens and S Smith, pub New Era 1999