10.06 Venue Miscellany: August 1994 to August 1996

After the first four venues, which hosted regular series of shows up to the middle of 1994, there is, for the next two years, a much quicker turnover of venues. Is this because of a boredom factor which means regular venues get dull quicker? Or it could have been that venues were being sought out for their spatial interest rather than longevity. Or was it attributable to the disruption of the collective by the arguments and subsequent split? Whatever the reason, in the following period venues do not last for more than three events.[1]

Farringdon Studios. Station Chambers, EC1, 27th August 1994.

Station Chambers was an odd assortment of literally underground spaces against the Farringdon Underground station cutting. Stairs led down into a long open courtyard off of which there are a set of small subterranean rooms. The main space is at the end of this courtyard and has further spaces that lead off it. This space lent itself to a range of installations and sideshows.

Unusually the event started at 2pm in the afternoon with a 'Sub Media Pow Wow'. This was a successful break from the usual format although a contemporaneous description of the event does not exist.[2]

The venue was used again as part of the first Volcano Festival in 1996.

St Johns Church, Brixton, 29th October & 12th November 1994.

A deconsecrated medium-sized Victorian church just to the north of Brixton. Plain white walls somewhat cold in atmosphere.

This was the first show by the new collective after the big split. Security was clearly a priority with the perceived threat of disruption by the other parties in the conflict. There were no more shows at the church as Lambeth Council have cut-off the electricity. The need for an independent bar operation was noted.[3] Feedback from the collective on the first church event ranged from: 'A bit sedate', to 'A Good show'. The expenses were high due to running a cafÒ and bar as well as the usual show costs.[4]

The Rivoli Ballroom, Brockley, 22nd December 1994.

An old barrel vault cinema that was converted into a ballroom in the 1930's.  It is a long rectangle with separate long bars to the side. Very ornate with a lot of original cheap fittings which are all somewhat tatty and dusty. It is run by a family and has a quirky Country and Western sort of atmosphere, which can also be quite surreal. The hall is capable of taking an audience of 300 or more. The trio of filmmakers known as Lovely Movies compered this third birthday show.[5]

The Sanctuary Cafe, Brighton, 23rd February 1995.

No description of venue available. A report appeared in the programme of a subsequent show.[6]

Loughborough Hotel, Brixton, 19th March, 14th May & 11th June 1995.

The upper floor of a large pub. From the main staircase you turn right into a main room has an interesting dome ceiling but can only accommodate about one hundred people. This is the main projection room. Turn left from the staircase and you go down a short corridor and enter a back room with a food bar and a few seats around small tables - fairly funky decor.[7]

The programme of the first show at the Loughborough has a home movie photo captioned with 'LOST IN SHAME, HOLISTIC SUBVERSION'. [8] (See illustration 18).  The Back cover of the programme of the third show at the Loughborough shows a picture of a drive-in movie with 'GO HOME' on the screen (+ 'to show work ring this number...')

Benhill Hall, (as part of Camberwell Arts Week) 17th June 1995.

A church hall type hall painted in the 'you will have fun' cheap and cheerful colours used in community arts buildings. It is a simple rectangular box with a high roof and a proscenium stage.

This show included films by Andrew Kotting and Nick Gordon Smith, was one of the few shows that only just broke even because of a small audience.[9]

A Circus Tent, Mountsfield Park, Catford, 8th July 1995.

A small circus tent. Films shown included, 'Top Gear' by George Barber and 'Bitchorama' by Colette Rouhier. The Exploding Collective were not able to provide the swift set up and get out required by the circus management which caused frayed nerves. There was also a problem with the door takings.

At a General Meeting[10] on 22nd of July 1995 there was a vote to discontinue the 'Mambo space' (The Loughborough Hotel) and look for a more ambitious space as a priority.[11]

 

The Old School, Catherine Grove, Greenwich, 30th September, 28th October & 25th November 1995.

A small Victorian redbrick school in which the classrooms were used as collectively run artists studios. The shows were in the old school hall/gym, which had a parquet floor and still had the exercise ropes hanging from the wall.

The second show here was 'tough' with electrical problems with the P.A. and trouble from the Council due to the lack of an entertainments licence. Described in subsequent minutes as a 'sad debacle but fun!'[12]

Hackney Anarchy Festival, 25th May 1996.

Exploding Cinema took part in this festival on an industrial estate. 8 Shelford place, Clissold Park in North London. The venue was described by Paul Tarrago as 'a concrete bunker squatted by Spanish youths'.

There were only two other shows in 1996 apart from the experiments at the Ritzy Cinema, which are described elsewhere. These were in:

Subterrania, W10, 4th August 1996.

A music club in Notting Hill (no description found of this event).

The Duke of Edinburgh Pub (garden of), Brixton, 16th August 1996.

A 'secluded, sleepy, very brown, lovely garden'.[13] The garden of the pub is approximately 20 x 45M running alongside a railway track. Copiously planted with bushes, especially screening the railway. At night trains passing at speed create a dramatic backdrop to the cinema screen. There are quite a number of wooden tables and chairs. A barbecue food stall in one corner did a brisk trade.

A meeting towards the end of 1996 noted the continued success of Exploding Cinema. It was also noted that a few people were doing the bulk of the work.[14] An Equipment Inventory at the end of 1996 was noted in these minutes.[15]

 

In summer 1996 several major subsidiary projects came to fruition...

'Vacuum'. A compilation tape is finished with funding from James Stevens. It is however 'a copyright nightmare' so can only be sold informally and cannot enter commercial distribution. It was launched on the 2nd of August 1996.[16]

'Exponet'. The Exploding Cinema worldwide web-site was launched in January 1996. This is connected to Backspace the alternative cyber cafe run by James Stevens in Clink Street near London Bridge. By July there was reports of it 'really taking off, it was registered with all the search engines' and achieved eighth place in 'Internet Magazine's choice of the month'.[17]

'Volcano!' is the name of the new London film groups film festival. It was launched in parallel with the London Film Festival in the Autumn of 1996. The programme was announced in July.[18] A full report on Volcano is in Section G below and Appendix.

Transport. There is a proposal to get a £300 grey Ford Cortina estate. Colette will agree to pay maintenance costs until these equal or exceed the purchase cost. The car will then be hers. Colette agrees to pay the cost of insurance. Exploding Cinema will pay one third of the road tax. Colette will be keeper and driver. Came to be known affectionately as The Slab.[19]

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[1] The model of a regular, low maintenance venue without any emphasis on high audience numbers continues to be seen as desirable. The move to Hatcham Social Club in mid 2000 such a venue.

 

[2] This following is from the press release: –Beneath the streets of the City of London, below the finance houses and the banks, in the stifling darkness, amongst the ruins of Empire... Something terrible is happening. In a maze of dusty corridors that once housed a strobe light factory the infamous EXPLODING CINEMA a gang of reckless no-budget film/video makers will be holding a day to night media carnival featuring Super 8 romance, experimental food, video trash, porno animation, direct action loops and radical shadow play° Beginning at noon the audience will be given the chance to scratch and colour their own films, to mix their own videos, to perform live film soundtracks, to become their own idols! Then as night slowly falls the Cinema will become a labyrinth of narrative, installation and subversion.”

 

[3] Minutes 20-11-94

 

[4] Minutes 1-11-94

 

[5] See interview in KinoKaze (Issue 2 1993 p31)

 

[6] Report on Brighton. (IP 19-3-95) –Oh I do like to be beside the seaside° watching low budget movies. So it is true. The virus is spreading. Thursday evening 23rd February Brighton had a tasty little cine snack with their very own Exploding Cinema at the Sanctuary CafÒ. Some London critters had the rare pleasure of watching 19 lil' ol' movies fruitfully slung together with the Lovely Movies gang. The joint was a jumping - in fact it was packed with people sitting on all manner of things craning to see them treasures. Oh the joy of being a punter - now I know why you all keep coming back. Yes - some films were so fab we've included them in tonight's programme for your delectation. Films like Love Me Tender are only the first to be pulled from their merry seaside recluses to be thrust onto the feisty London screen. When the show rolled to a tardy close the audience groaned with the prospect of no more pictures and forced the Lovely Movies to make promises of another show. Yes - there it is. The unstoppable forces of cheap and fast films in full effect twisting fresh minds and leading them down the promenade of low budget frenzimania. Take a bite and talk to Jamie Lovely Movies about showing your film at their next show.”

 

[7] My own memory of this venue is that the showing room was quite small with a lot of people standing. I arrived late and couldn't see the films comfortably. However along a corridor a 'chillout' room provide refreshments and other sideshows which had a good clubby atmosphere.

 

[8] IP 19-3-95

 

[9] Minutes 28-6-95

 

[10] Only Caroline, Jennet, Colette, Duncan, Juliette and Paul are listed as attending but James, Silvy, Ros, Gisli, Sheik are noted as speaking. They may have been late.

 

[11] Review of the past year, 1994/95: A selection of comments from minutes(22-6-95): (full sentences reconstructed from cryptic notes):

Duncan: 'The Church was a good venue - it suited films'.

Colette: 'An interesting venue and being in complete control of venue helps a show go well'.

Paul: 'We are better not trying to keep up a regular monthly slot'.

Jennet: 'Must question our taste with regard to spaces'.

Caroline: 'We should be choosy and critical with regard to venues; we need to be autonomous'.

Silvy: 'The audience has changed'.

Gisli: 'The church was good'.

Sheik: 'We need a more central location, a higher media image and a bigger, more interesting building'.

Caroline: 'We should be more pro-active with programming, talent scouting'.

James: 'Is it becoming cliquey?'

Discussion of the future:

Duncan: 'The limitations of what can be achieved are people's energy and burnout. The Exploding Cinema model only works if workload is distributed. The work tends to fall onto a few people'. 

Colette: 'Invite people to help in individual shows?'

Duncan: 'If we do regular shows - do we need wages for admin?' 

Jennet: 'I think that is undesirable'.

Duncan: 'We need to get a building'. [The office was given up at the end of 1994]

Fiona: 'A building would change the nature of what we are doing'.

Colette: 'Maintaining our autonomy is most important'.

 

[12] Minutes of 6-11-95

 

[13] Minutes of 7-7-96

 

[14] Minutes of 13-10-96. Can Sheik, for instance, be a member by turning up at events only? Duncan and Colette do a massive amount of work° A list of 50 major tasks has been drawn up that Duncan does. This was also the subject of discussion earlier that year (14-1-96).

 

[15] Six Super 8 projectors; one Elmo 16mm projector, (plus other 16mms: one B&H left at The Ritzy, another B&H at Jenet's and a further 16mm B&H at James's);

four clunk-click slide projectors, two single slide carousels plus one working carousel; One overhead projector which needs repair;

One large screen; A Steinbeck editor at Gregs; A ladder in Greenwich (mins: 29-10-96).

James Stevens usually hired the Exploding Cinema his video projector. Nine multi-screen monitors were also around at this time.

 

[16] Minutes of 7 & 23-7-96. See also advert in IP 4-8-96. p14

 

[17] Minutes of 7-7-96

 

[18] Minutes of 23-7-96

 

[19] Minutes of 13-10-96