Following our earlier post, The Thinking Cinema will launch in Lewisham on next week:
The Thinking Cinema is a philosophical cinema specialising in showing intelligent and thought-provoking documentaries, art films, and fiction films from around the world. The cinema aims to help us understand how we exist in relation to one another. It will also exist as a space for thinking to take place, for conversations and talks, seminars and lectures.
It is a cinema that will listen to the voices and opinions of this community. It will invite the new arrivals to this area, as well as those who have lived here all their lives, to suggest films that reflect their histories and culture. The cinema also plans to show kids films, family films, and films for young people.
The cinema will launch at 6pm Thursday 15 December with a free screening of Gun Nation by Zed Nelson (30min, 2016), introduced by the director. Gun Nation explores the paradox of why America’s most potent symbol of freedom is also one of its greatest killers. We especially invite local filmmakers and film lovers who might be interested in being involved in the running of the space.
Housed in the Good Hope café (run by the charity For Jimmy) at PLACE/Ladywell on Lewisham High Street, the new non-profit volunteer-run community cinema has 30 seats, a surround sound system, and a 4-metre wide screen. The cinema is supported by For Jimmy, which is dedicated to the welfare of young people in the area, set up after the murder of Jimmy Mizen in 2008. The cinema is also supported by the social enterprise organization Meanwhile Space, and part-funded by Lewisham Council.
Ladywell Leisure Centre, February 2014 (photo: G. Murbach)
This year, a temporary development will occupy the site of the former Ladywell Leisure Centre. Anne Wilding of Meanwhile Space CIC, the organisation managing the project, writes:
Ever thought of running your own cine club? Looking for a new space?
From May this year, PLACE/Ladywell will be a temporary housing and community space in Lewisham. The upper floors will house 24 homeless Lewisham families, and the ground floor, managed by Meanwhile Space CIC, will offer a combination of affordable retail, creative and business space, cafe, and screening space.
Meanwhile Space are interested in talking to potential tenant operators of the screening/cinema space (approx 450 sq ft) with a view to collaboration, or a tenancy. During the public consultation, there was high demand for a cinema and there is little on offer in the area. You can read more about the opportunity here or visit the PLACE/Ladywell project page at www.meanwhilespace.com for information about the other spaces.
Rents will be approximately 2/3 market rate for the area and tenancies 12 months with an option to extend. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Remains of the Gaumont Palace, Lewisham High Street, 2009
Now being the last London borough without a cinema (Walthamstow saw the opening of a cinema last year), we carried out a brief survey to find out if there were any plans for new cinemas in Lewisham.
We wrote to the Council’s planning department. Not once but several times. We never received an answer. We searched their planning database: with one exception, mentioned below, there is no upcoming projects. We contacted Lewisham Gateway, the borough’s largest regeneration project which, incidentally, incorporated a cinema in its early drafts. Their spokesperson Nicole Benford told us that “though a cinema does not form part of the first phase of work, discussions surrounding the next phase are still ongoing and as such, I’m unable at this time to confirm if a cinema will be included”.
Rumours on social media go wild… “Breaking news …. The Capitol is closing as a pub in the next 3-6 weeks and WILL revert to a cinema,” some claim. We checked with pub chain Wetherspoon, which owns The Capitol. Their spokesman Eddie Gershon confirmed that “Wetherspoon is not selling The Capitol”.
This is perhaps symptomatic of the lack of interest and urgency by the Council to promote popular culture and foster urban regeneration. There is no doubt that the demand exists: Lewishamians travel to neighbouring boroughs to watch films on the big screen. The new Picturehouse in East Dulwich is a welcoming addition to fairly local venues in Peckham, Greenwich and Beckenham. The planned opening of the Deptford Cinema is also to be celebrated, although it will offer a niche programme of art films and experimental films. A local group in Hither Green is campaigning for a community cinema. But, for the foreseeable future, we may have to rely on (excellent) grassroots cinema projects, from local film clubs to free film festivals.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, a cinema was planned as part of the massive Lewisham Gateway urban development project. As reported on Brockley Central, part of the project seems to be back on track… without the cinema. As Emma Talbot of the Lewisham Council Planning Service tells us…
there is space available within the permitted [Lewisham] Gateway scheme to enable a cinema to be provided, dependent on a willing operator. At this time the developer is in discussion about bringing forward detailed proposals for the first phase of the scheme. The potential cinema space is located in the later phase and while it is not forming part of our current discussions, details involving the content of the later phase are still to be explored.
Lewisham remains one of two London boroughs without a permanent cinema.
The disputed Lewisham Gateway development project, which originally included a cinema multiplex, is facing further delays due to lack of finances and the current economic situation (News Shopper of 4 May). It has been announced that the project will not start before 2013 at the earliest. Joost Van Well, from Lewisham Council’s planning department, told us:
You might be aware that it has been a longstanding ambition of Lewisham Council to have a dedicated cinema in the borough again. (…) With regards to the Lewisham Gateway scheme, we have ensured that there is sufficient space for a multiplex cinema in this development. However, this subject to operators being interested. At the moment, we are not sure if there will be a multiplex scheme as part of the development. You will hopefully understand that the Council itself is not planning on opening or running a cinema. However, (…) in principle we will look favourable on any such schemes coming forward.
Meanwhile, our colleagues from Hither Green Hall are campaining to bring back the Park Cinema (pictured above) and for a new cinema to be built on the site of the Ladywell Leisure Centre.
But the good news is that right now we have a very active and larger-than-ever group of community-led cinema clubs throughout South-East London offering a diverse selection of films each month+
Update: we’ve been informed that the Park Cinema building has now been sold to a retailer (read more). Thanks to Kate of the South London Press for the information.