Obituary: Vanda Jones

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The Independent Online
At a time when visiting the National Film Theatre in London was both a treat and a pleasure and one felt that the management cared about the comfort and welfare of the members, the imposing and grandly welcoming figure of Vanda Jones was prominently visible in the theatre foyer, always available for conversation, praise or complaint. She knew many of the members by name, recognised and greeted them, and always revealed a deep understanding and true love for cinema.

Her working life became inextricably intertwined with the NFT, where she commenced work as an assistant sales manageress, in 1960. She graduated to usherette, though such a term seems wholly inadequate for what Vanda Jones actually did: she ensured that the team of NFT staff was hand-picked, insisting that they all share a total dedication to the cinema. Many of the chosen were unemployed actresses, painters, poets, writers, and film- makers; unsurprisingly, many of "Vanda's girls" went on to careers in the arts.

In 1974 Jones became official floor manageress; in 1977 she was appointed to front-of-house; and in 1986 became assistant theatre manager. She loathed personal publicity, and deliberately shrouded her background in mystery, save to say that she had once acted and indeed had her portrait taken by the noted theatrical photographer Angus McBean.

But she had a heart that reached out to all who knew her, and she was generous with her time and energy to those who called upon her. Deep friendships were struck up amongst her staff and members, and film critics and historians were for ever in her debt, as were many victims of the earphone film commentary, when the on-the-spot translator proved to be the erudite and accomplished Vanda Jones.

The opening of the new Museum of the Moving Image in 1988 made Jones's duties at the NFT onerous: she was, after all, in love with cinema and indeed all the arts, and did not particularly view herself in the role of museum janitor, closing up at the end of the day. Unsympathetic internal management put her into a position whereby she tendered her resignation, fully expecting her reasons to be investigated and her tenure left unencumbered. But her resignation was unceremoniously accepted, and, after 33 years of service to the NFT, Jones "retired" in 1993.

Vanda Jones was part of the unofficial goodwill PR that the National Film Theatre could surely do with today. Her value was never truly recognised by contemporary management, and her loss is doubly felt for her being under- appreciated.

Vanda Jones, theatre administrator: born 14 March 1935; died London 28 June 1997.