My original idea for this article was a lot more focused on emerging independent cinemas in general. However, having met the people behind Thearthouse Crouch End and The Northern Light respectively, it became clear that my attention would be fixed on two..
A (fond) Tale of Two cinemas
I meet George Georgiou in the relaxed cafe foyer of The Crouch End Art House. And feel relaxed. Meeting genuine people has that affect on me. What struck me first was George letting me know that he was part of a team. That he and his partner Sam Neophytou, have worked incredibly hard with an "incredible team," to realise what is, not a dream. But a remarkable driven success. Striking me second was the pride that George shines, not in the award.. (Best Cinema Time Out...) a remarkable achievement, but in the comments of local people who constantly remark to him about how much the Arthouse is becoming a creative hub for the Crouch End and surrounding community.
But how did it come about?
I met George twice in the foyer of The Arthouse. I think i was more relaxed the second time as i noticed local artwork adorning the cafe walls. George might have relaxed with me, describing his acting background and Sam's directing experience which led them into writing and performing plays in and around London. This eventually and logically started the process of them looking for a more permanent venue.
The present location was an obvious choice, from there i conclude from talking to George that practicalities dictated a two screen cinema.
Along of course with a stage, which was packed with a full complement of upcomming concerts and plays, and do i see George smile? I think remembering himself and Sam wishing then what they have now.
I'm sometimes weary of talking finance, so i skirt it a little, until George is happy to proudly acknowledge investment given by friends, family and local people who also saw a believable vision. I love that the cinema seats were resurrected from a closed down Welsh cinema, and i love that i feel this whole project has depth! Most i like that i feel the discreet very hard work invested is done for than the need for financial profit. Rescuing Welsh cinema seats got my vote.
I could have written this whole article about the cinema's wonderful diversity. Celebrating Women's cinema for example, or the Gay and Lesbian film screenings. Along with the film writing and film making workshops based at the heart of TheArthouse..and it go's on... Interaction with artists ( q&a with Alison Stedman up coming )
These wonderfully constructive things are well publicised on the website.and blog. (which contains some excellent film reviews)
I wanted to convey a feeling i got from this cinema. I hope i have.
The Derbyshire town of Wirksworth has recently been the home of some award winning design. Designer Esther Patterson the creative force behind Curiousa and Curiousa go's from strength to sublime. I'll explain... After winning a national art competition with a work entitled :Triptych Stacks. (originally commissioned by The Hayward Gallery, in London.) and following this incredable creative recognition. Esthers clients soon included Liberty of London, Harvey Nichols, and her lights also adorned some of Mr Jamie Olivers restaurants!
Esthers background.. Done. Finding the Northern light Cinema ( remember to fork left) deep in a perfect part of a beautiful Derbyshire.. Done. I'll go on....
Nestled deep in the heart of what i suspect is a very proud Wirksworth... I park outside The Northern Light Cinema and ponder in.. I see Esthers lights straight away, dangling discreetly in the cafe/bar area of the cinema she has y with her partner and husband Paul Carr. I am taken aback by it's intelligent style, and greeted by Paul Carr the manager, but i know he's much more.. . Paul offers me a drink and i ask him about how it happened? But i'm not ready to take it all in yet. As we're talking Esther Patterson finds us at the bar.
I have to compliment Esther on her lights, they are after all there... And brilliant! But i want to talk about this tiny wonderful cinema...
Comfortably together, this remarkably creative couple related to me with smiles only memories can shape! How, with inspiration from somewhere? Showing films anywhere was soon what they did! I would have loved you to listen in with me, as Paul and Esther described their guerrilla cinema adventurous activities.... Sticking in my mind is a picture of them both, one in each corner, holding up a blown down following a freak gust of wind...make shift...Cinema Screen... during the Hendrix demolition scene... In what was a shown in the wild "withnail and i." Screening! I didn't have to be there.. Esther explains it better :
"The strap-line for the Guerrilla cinema was - film in unusual places. We showed in quarries, gardens, trains and woods - anything a bit different or funny. The Withnail one started with an egg butty at our local pub, followed a cardboard jag to the local quarry (that’s all me could afford) - everyone dressed up. It was hilarious. Then we had the screen disaster but everyone found it so funny as when the ball came down to hit the building the screen blew over just at that precise moment. We got through to the end somehow!" E P.
As i understand it, Paul's graphic design space which occupied the top part of the building was soon shared with the success of Esthers lights and after some thought, the void below was turned into the remarkable space celebrating film we see now. Easy....?
Wirksworth was once upon a time, indeed the proud owner of a wonderful cinema.. The building of which was still there? What if? Sadly romantic and not unexplored, thoughts to resurrect the original said cinema were soon strangled by practicality and, reality is so persuasive. However, in a touching tribute the first film shown by the original Wirksworth cinema (a street car named desire) was respectfully copied by Paul and Esther upon the opening of The Northern Light Cinema.
Attached to this piece is a wonderfully shot, short film by Gavin Repton. Which as we all know as pictures do, will paint a thousand more words about a story of cinema worth sharing Thanks Gavin.
After i watched Gavin's film, Esther told me the true extent of the local support. People sanding the old theatre seats, painting panels and ceilings to get The Northern Light Cinema ready for opening. Doing everything and i quote: "With Gusto!"
I like it that Esther said she lets Paul choose the films. Just because. And i like it that the seats were saved from The Darlington Theatre.
Just two of the many reasons why i like this cinema a lot and i think that it's got....how to put it...
I once saw a play in New York off broadway called Panache... I thought i'd never think to use that word to describe something or one again. Until now....
I do know that Paul and Esther sold some land attached to their house to finance this project. And i also know that the community of Wirksworth are feeling very proud and are placed firmly behind the the two with broad Derbyshire smiles
Well done from us and a big thanks from Esther and Paul to Wirksworth and i suspect Visa Versa...