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Walthamstow gets a new pop-up cinema

Kids offerings start with Kung Fu Panda 2; Moonrise Kingdom starts Nov 23.

Last weekend, Nicholas Bertram, former actor/guide of London’s shuttered Museum of the Moving Image, launched Walthamstow’s second pop-up cinema - Stow Film Lounge. The other is the award winning Screen17, which he co-founded, but amicably split from in August 2012.

Why is this important?

The 70,000+ people of this densely populated, north-east enclave of London haven’t had a cinema of their own to boast about since the current owners of the 100-year-old Walthamstow Cinema building - Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) - applied for planning permission to change its use to a place of worship in January 2003. A long running dispute with local film lovers continues to this day - the most recent deadline for stating your opposition was Nov 1. (More here.)

But this is London and there are cinemas in the neighbouring areas of South Woodford, Stratford and Hackney. However, the roughly 100 parents/children who turned out for Kung Fu Panda 2 at the inaugural Kids Film Lounge told a story of a very local demand for film.

To make it more than just a film club Nicholas has drafted in the founder of the community arts project Scribble and Smudge, Leslie Palmer, to give the kids something interactive and relevant to do. In this instance they made pretend Chinese firecrackers.

Judging by the screams of excitement and expending of energy it’s manor from heaven for parents faced with limited affordable weekend options and/or having to factor in more than twice the travel time to the nearest cinema.

Chris, with a calm eye on his two year old Oliver, tells me: “The potential for interaction is great.”

At lights down everyone soon hunkers down for the main feature. All young faces are glued to the screen.  One innovative dad is reading his Weekend Guardian by the light of the popcorn machine with his daughter on his lap. Proving a little bit of me time can be mixed with good parenting.

The Stow Film Lounge isn’t just a kids club. The Friday evening preceding each fortnightly Saturday event, from Nov 23, will be for the adults - the licensed bar will also be an attraction on those occasions. His first grown up offering will be Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Walthamstow awaits Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ final decision about the planning permission for the future use of its dormant cinema. Regardless of the outcome, Stow Film Lounge is a pop-up cinema tapping into real local demand for the shared experience of watching films together in the dark. Bertram exhibits at the Orford House Social Club - just like his predecessor and rival Screen17. Which means they’ll never be in direct competition for filmgoers.

Details for future events and more info see: http://www.stowfilmlounge.com/

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thanks for hightlighting the ongoing fight to save a nationally important cinema and for drawing attention to what can be done to meet a demand for cinema at a grassroots level in a commercial and sustainable way.

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