My childhood was ruled by films, and from an early age I was glued to the small screen. In fact, I’m pretty certain my speech development was encouraged by the range of accents I heard on my television. My parents have told me that I would be completely transfixed by whatever I was watching – the colours, the sounds, even the stories would grip me with such emotion that my little toddler self would be crying for hours after watching something like Toy Story 2. I can’t even imagine the amount of time my parents must have spent watching Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music repeatedly with me. I was raised on the films of their childhoods – classic Disney films like Pinocchio and Peter Pan, the wondrous delights of The Wizard of Oz and timeless musicals such as The King and I and Grease. It wasn’t until the early noughties that I started discovering and exploring films for myself.
2002 marks the year that my love for cinema was heightened. I had just turned six years old when Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had its UK release. My mum was at home with my then six-month-old baby brother and my dad had taken me to the cinema to see the second film of what would become one of the biggest franchises of all time. We visited the Warner Village Cinema in York, just six months before it became a Vue Cinema. I’m so glad that I was able to experience it as the Warner before it was taken over. At the time, it was a state-of-the-art multiplex and hailed as the most modern cinema complex in the UK. With over 3000 seats across 12 screens, a computerised ticket system and an advanced audio system, it was the perfect way for me to experience the cinema for the first time.
The memory that immediately springs to mind is that of the foyer. It had been completely kitted out with Harry Potter merchandise – cardboard cut-outs, broomsticks, themed popcorn boxes and drinks. I’m certain that John Williams’ theme was playing. I’d never seen anything like it. I felt like I’d been transported to the Wizarding World, it was just surreal.
I don’t think I’d read any of the books at this age, so my excitement simply came from having seen The Philosopher’s Stone. All I wanted was to be a witch like Hermione, to be practicing spells and be allowed to take my cat to school; I couldn’t wait until I turned 11 and got my Hogwarts letter in the post. The rest of the trip is a bit of a blur, it’s almost like it was just a vivid dream that I’ve clung onto for 18 years. However, I do remember hiding behind my dad’s arm during Harry and Ron’s trip into the Forbidden Forest and being terrified of Harry’s fight with the Basilisk. Regardless, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets remains to be my favourite Potter film and I reckon it’s all down to this cinema trip.
From that day on, if you asked my younger self what I loved most in the whole world, I’d be stuck between choosing Harry Potter or chocolate. I started reading the books and I’d ‘play’ Harry Potter with my friends at school; acting out the scenes that we loved and of course discussing which wizards were the cutest. At that age, I didn’t feel ashamed for loving something so intensely that it was an obsession, because kids always have obsessions, and my closest friends were obsessed too. During our class reading time, we’d plan to read the same Harry Potter book so we could be excited about the same chapters. For World Book Day, every kid would have found a Hogwarts costume and have a big red, felt-tip pen lightning bolt on their forehead. It was such a sweet and innocent time that part of me is sad to think I’ve grown out of in some ways. Now, the extent of my obsession would be turning to the Prisoner of Azkaban on a rainy day or listening to the incredible scores to get me through my nine-to-five. I still love it dearly, immensely even, and it has had a huge impact on my life. So much so, that I knew I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who didn’t understand my love for it. Thankfully, my partner is equally as obsessed as I am.
It’s a franchise that I will never be able to part with. I became guided by it when I was growing up, with the mystifying wisdom of Albus Dumbledore encouraging me through life’s hurdles. Although I was a few years younger than the main characters, I still grew up with them. By the time Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 came around, I was fifteen and the same age as some of those fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts. I could visualise myself in the Wizarding World, I could sympathise with those in the war against the Dark Lord, and I knew that I never wanted this remarkable story to come to an end. I’m so glad I got to experience the world of Harry Potter in its absolute prime, but I’m also excited to pass it on as I get older. There’s a reason why places like Primark continue to sell their Potter merchandise: it’s completely timeless.
Sirius Black said “the ones that love us never really leave us”, and the world of Harry Potter will never leave its fans. My obsession was born from one unforgettable experience at the cinema and it’s through those short moments that I fall further in love with the cinematic form.