Warning! Hipster Alert! Some groovy people invited me to Whirled which is a members’ cinema built into some railway arches at Loughborough Junction. This downbeat area (pictured) is not far from where I live in south London, but in the past I’ve paid it scant attention while concentrating on its two complicated 5-way road junctions both leading under railway bridges. The said railways added regular rumbles to the film (Clouds of Sils Maria – recommended, amongst many reasons, for its sincere respect for music, a rare thing in screen work these days). But we had a good time seated on well-padded pews, amongst a relaxed but focused audience, with a nice little bar behind to encourage us.
The moment I mentioned this to anyone they immediately countered with their own favourite hideaway cinema. Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay for instance sounds really great; and I recalled when visiting Bussum in the Netherlands, attending film showings in a converted church with a welcome interval for drinks and cake in the middle of the film, served by kindly volunteers. It seems as if every film fan prefers not to go to a ‘real’ cinema, even including the laudable BFI.
Is there a comparison with going out to hear live music ? I treasure my visits to concerts in non-concert halls, and thanks to organisations like Spitalfields Music I have heard music in all sorts of improbable spaces, from disused synagogues to tiny back gardens. There can be problems for the poor musicians, getting enough light, room to move a bow, fitting a bass or keyboard inside. And listeners’ comfort can be a factor – I’m already a little concerned about lasting through a 90-minute piece by Gerard Grisey in a car park next week. Attending music shouldn’t be purely a fashion statement. But there’s something about the feel of individual people presenting these events whatever the setbacks because a particular artwork or performance matters to them; as opposed to the ethos, however well-meaning, of a big venue whose spaces and slots just have to be filled month after month.