DOROTHY WRIGHT is a pitman’s daughter who has, says the clipped tones of the 1960s newsreel commentary, “a most unusual job for a woman”.

The black-and-white film shows her leaving her father with his whistling canaries in their terraced home in Bishop Auckland, and heading for work in a snazzy, two-tone coupe.

“One clue,” says the commentary. “She leaves home each evening around five.”

Dorothy, it transpires, is “probably the only woman chief projectionist in the business”, working at the Essoldo cinema in Railway Street.

The Essoldo closed in 1966, very shortly after the footage was filmed, and became a bingo hall, as it is today.

A “people’s museum” has just opened in the bingo hall, with hopes to reopen in some form the upper balcony, complete with ornate ceiling, which has been shut off since the 1930s.

One of the donations to the museum is a two-and-a-half minute news film which shows Dorothy working in her box with her assistant, James Platt, a Brancepeth Colliery miner. James seems to be the rewind man, who returns the films to their original state once they have been shown.

Once he’s finished his evening’s work in the cinema, he clocks on at the pit at 2am.

“It’s an unusual team in the box at Bishop Auckland,” says the commentary, “but in the mining town, no one is surprised to discover the unsuspected talents among the versatile people.”

On the night the footage is filmed, Dorothy is showing the Mining Review followed by an exciting feature which involves some hot dalek action.

The Mining Review was a monthly “cine-magazine” produced by the National Coal Board from 1947 to 1983. There were 420 editions of it made which were shown in 700 cinemas across the country, but largely in the mining areas. It featured social life in the mining communities – from whistling canaries to women billiard players – and also mining messages about increased production and safety.

In the heyday of cinemas, many industries produced their own cine-magazines, with the Mining Review being the most successful, seen by millions.

As exciting as it was, most people in the audience were probably there to see the feature, which the commentary calls “the daleks’ invasion”.

We believe was Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150, which starred Peter Cushing, as Dr Who, and Bernard Cribbins. The daleks appear to be causing all sorts of confusion until a van is driven at them at speed, knocking them over like ninepins, even though they are shouting their “exterminate” catchphrase.

The Daleks’ Invasion was the second movie based on the BBC TV show – the first was 1965’s Dr Who and the Daleks – and it was released on August 5, 1966.

But the Essoldo closed on August 6, 1966, to be converted into a bingo hall, which is why there is a degree of doubt.

L The People’s Museum in the Hippodrome is staffed solely by volunteers. As well as telling of the building’s history as a theatre and a cinema, it looks at life as it used to be in south Durham. One of the displays at the moment is on the popular Doggarts stores, there’s plenty of railway-related material, and in the near future, the Durham Amateur Football Trust will be putting on an exhibition.

The museum is open from 5pm to 10pm every day, and from 10.30am to 2pm from Tuesday to Saturday each week, so why not pop along and have a look.

L With huge thanks to Michael O’Neill for his help