10.08  Three Venues: March 1997 to June 1998.

I have grouped these together, as I was part of the collective in this period. My own participant observer logbook, which starts at the beginning of 1998, will be the source of data for the shows from this period.

George IV, Brixton Hill. 28th March, 1st May & 29th May 1997. 

George IV is ten minutes walk from Brixton underground station up Brixton Hill. George IV is a well-known music pub with a black painted back room with a large stage and projection/ sound booth and 2 or 3 DJ booths. There was space for about 120 people in the main room (we needed to bring in extra chairs). The main show was relayed to a smaller bar in the pub using the pubs own video circuit. We had arranged for a van to serve 'Soul food' out the front yard and a bouncer who was provided by the pub.

The collective's feedback on this first show at George IV was upbeat.[1]

I was MC for the first time at the second show at George IV and had my head painted a deep blue. I found being MC rather stressful as several of the collective were shouting at me and there were a few technical breakdowns to talk the audience through. The landlord became overbearing and sexist. We tried having a disco to follow the films, but the audience had drifted away. Understandably a lot of people tend to catch last buses on a weekday night. Feedback on the second show was considerably more downbeat.[2]

In the third and last show at George IV I did the decor with Thomas. We prepared special slides and had the idea of changing the atmosphere in each of the three programme sections. DJ Nat played his retro collection to great acclaim in the intervals and at the end of the show.[3]

These shows were all on a Thursday night, which, along with the down-market pub atmosphere, was not popular with some of the collective. We then began a long search for a new venue.

Kennington Park Community Centre, Kennington Oval, 14th March, 10th April & 9th May 1998.

Kennington Park Estate is a very large estate on the South West of Kennington Park. It is a five storey 1930's tenement estate with external walkways. The more recent Community Centre is situated on the southern edge of the estate over the road from the Oval House Theatre. A plain brick building with no external architectural facade it faces inwards onto a battered courtyard. You enter a small corridor, which leads to toilets, two committee rooms, an office and a kitchen. The main space at the end of this corridor is square with an impressive pyramidal roof held up with four laminated timber beams and lined with pine board. The space can seat 150 or more with the chairs supplied by the venue. We projected diagonally across the square.

I found and set this venue up. I had asked Roz a director of the Oval house Theatre to lend us their aluminium rigging tower so we could put dÚcor screens up high into the pyramidal roof. Thomas helped me do this at 10am on the morning of the show. I also made some cheap projection shelves that clipped onto the timber trunking that ran around the walls. The idea was to have 360-degree projection. The problem with projections close to the main screen is that of their light bleeding onto the main screen and washing out the main film. But it worked and the whole room looked spectacular. By 9pm it was packed out and people were being turned away.

Duncan was MC dressed as an 18th century French Sans Culotte. He did a rousing performance poem called 'England My Frankenstein' which is accompanied by specially made slides. The show ended at midnight and everyone was high after a good show. We should have helped Bill the caretaker to mop the floor, which was covered in spilt beer, but people's need to talk and socialise was too great. He had to work clearing up until 2.30am to get the hall ready for an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting the next morning. We collect our equipment the next day. The next show was set to be on the 10th April.

I had pushed for this show to coincide with a celebration the 150th anniversary of the Great Chartist meeting in the nearby Kennington Park that same afternoon.[4] The timing was not ideal as the rest of the collective had just returned from Germany three days before - so I was left doing the publicity and programming on my own. I was also the MC. As if this wasn't enough I tried to make a film of the anniversary celebrations in the park that afternoon featuring myself with a green head. The idea was that my cameraperson, Ana Kolpy, would make a crash edit straight onto VHS and we would screen it that same evening. I drove off with my green head to get the video projector from James Stevens in Tooting. The weather was stormy.

This turned out to be a somewhat flat show with a programme that was somewhat serious in tone. The audience numbers were small, probably on account of most of the collective being away and the poor weather.[5]

The final show at this venue was on 9th May:

I was the floor manager and there was a lot of stress and bad feeling around that was difficult to find a source of. We had problems finding people to do door duty. This job meant being out in the corridor and being hassled by the housing estate's youth who were curious to know what was going on. A few people wanted money back and started to argue with Duncan because the admission charge of £4 didn't have 'a concessionary rate'. Then there were latecomers who wanted to come in free and Paul wasn't having it. The bouncer, we had hired, was good but couldn't alleviate the ongoing stress.

The Oval was a good one actually, yes. Even though it was a Youth Centre it looked alright, and the people (running it were) sympathetic enoughƒ  It looked like a tentƒ of some description, like a tent-full of projections. It was a really nice screening space in the end. (Thomas Zagrosek OH interview)

Wilsons Annexe, Camberwell Arts Week, 26th June 1998

A baronial styled hall on the first floor of a Victorian school building with a lot of dark timber and a large balcony that was not accessible to the audience. Access was from the large car park then up a wide stone staircase. Pretensions to grandeur were undercut by its institutional usage, as it is now an annex of Camberwell Art College.

Report from my log: 'Colette took on organising this and had a constant battle with the Camberwell Arts Week organising group, a miniature bureaucracy who wanted to have a say on every aspect of our operation and the show. They had a whole battery of petty regulations to pester us with. There were many letters, minutes and special meetings. This is the sort of gig you can do without as a voluntary collective.

Still, with perseverance from Colette the event itself turned out surprisingly well. The interior architecture of the hall had suggested a secret society with an adherence to animal spirits. We all decided to make full-head animal masks and Duncan wrote a script in which a person from the audience was apparently sacrificed with a lot of fake blood. Many of the Exploding Cinema were good at making stage props and there were some excellent masks which set a strange atmosphere at the start. As people came in Duncan was standing up on the balcony in with his ram's head. The Camberwell Arts Week people took care of the door and bar and the Wilson's Annex caretakers saved us any worries about security. This freed us up to enjoy our own show more. This was a memorable themed showî.[6]

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[1] Minutes of 6-4-97 Colette, 'All films good, landlord efficient'; Jennet, 'Image relay was undersold'; Paul, 'Very good show - the space was transformed'; Stefan, 'Good food outside, decor in rest of pub undeveloped'; Duncan, 'Show was top!'

 

[2] Minutes of 11-5-97. Paul: 'The slides didn't change; the landlord (Paul) interfered too much; Music tapes were poor quality'.

Sandra: 'Leave the chairs' (which were cleared so people could dance at end).

Thomas: 'The dance slot at the end didn't work'.

Caroline: 'The decor projectors didn't work properly'.

Duncan: 'The audience had fun but, the sound was bad; no ladder was available; there was no spot on Stefan as MC. The films were good'.

Jennet; 'The MC should calm the audience or ask them to leave when they talk through a film'.

Colette: 'The projectionist should cue up video tapes before the show. A person cannot do floor manager and decor at the same time. The landlord's attitude was unbearable. The decor should be more designed'.

Stefan: 'The game of Utopian Bingo was good; the decor lost impact because of trying to do the rest of the pub (without enough equipment & people)'

 

[3] Feedback on this last show at George IV as minuted at the following meeting:

Paul T: 'A good show'.

Duncan: 'Food? Bookstall?'

Stefan: 'Satisfied doing decor with Thomas'.

Colette: 'Nat the DJ was good; Programming good; Critical of Jennet's MCing'.

Caroline: 'Lack-lustre! Boring, dull, slack...  Booklet fab'.

Jennet: 'A good show; filmmakers came up to speak'.

Paul M: 'In many ways a good show.' More compliments for the DJ; More criticism of doing shows on a Thursday night.

Sandra: 'No to Thursday. DJ Nat was brilliant'.(Minutes 2-7-97)

 

[4] I had written and published a pamphlet on the history of the Park which had been selling well locally: 'Kennington Park: birthplace of British democracy' 1997.

 

[5] This does show me how personally generated themes may not be well accommodated within the Exploding Cinema framework. Ideas may have to be owned by the whole collective rather than elicit a passive agreement.

[6] Log 1 pp 104 - 106. This is one of the few shows in which there is a collaboration with an formal arts organisation. The culture clash was interesting.