Antony Sher dies

Antony Sher dies

Sir Antony Sher, perhaps the finest actor of his generation, has died aged 72, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced today.

TAITMAIL   Behind the battlements

TAITMAIL Behind the battlements

Nottingham Castle Museum was doing well, for a museum without much real history left to talk about, and it was getting a healthy 150,000 visitors a year - about half what Stonehenge gets - before it closed for its £30m refurb which it was hoped would double the numbers. 

Shebeen culture wins Turner Prize

Shebeen culture wins Turner Prize

Array Collective, the Belfast co-operative of 11 artists whose nominated work, The Druithaib’s Ball, is an installation centred on an illicit Irish drinking den described as “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”, has won the 2021 Turner Prize.

ACE’s £38.3m for local culture

ACE’s £38.3m for local culture

Arts Council England has today announced grants worth £38.3m for the programme that makes partners of cultural organisations and communities.

Bird to quit SOLT and UK Theatre

Bird to quit SOLT and UK Theatre

Julian Bird is to stand down as CEO of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre after more than 11 years. 

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

London’s East End, June, 1957, by Frank Pocklington

Alan Sparrow talks to Frank Pocklington about his favourite Picture Post photograph

Sacha Craddock stands down at New Contemporaries

Sacha Craddock stands down at New Contemporaries

Sacha Craddock is stepping down as chair of New Contemporaries, the organisation set up more than 70 years ago to support emerging visual artists with touring exhibitions of their work.

Eilish McGuinness takes over at NHLF

Eilish McGuinness takes over at NHLF

Eilish McGuinness is to take over from Ros Kerslake as CEO of the National Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of the year.

Lewisham’s year of diverse culture

Lewisham’s year of diverse culture

Lewisham is to be London’s next Borough of Culture for 2022, focusing on diversity, activism and the climate emergency in a programme that was announced at the Rivoli Ballroom today.

Emmie Kell is ACE's new museums chief

Emmie Kell is ACE's new museums chief

Emmie Kell, CEO of the Cornwall Museums Partnership, is to be Arts Council England’s new director of museums and cultural property.

Merger creates Creative UK

Merger creates Creative UK

The Creative Industries Federation and Creative England have merged today to become Creative UK, bringing together the advocacy work of one body and the investment expertise and practical support of the other.

Kathryn Jacob to chair HOME

Kathryn Jacob to chair HOME

Kathryn Jacob, CEO of the cinema advertising agency Pearl & Dean, is to be the new chair of the Manchester arts centre HOME.

33% of musicians still earning nothing from music

33% of musicians still earning nothing from music

A third of our professional musicians are earning nothing from music and 87% are earning less than £1,000 a month, according to new figures today from the charity Help Musicians.

£1m hunt for young museumgoers as ‘perfect storm’ looms

£1m hunt for young museumgoers as ‘perfect storm’ looms

The Art Fund has launched a £1m fundraising campaign to help museums attract under 24-year-olds.

Another £107m for arts recovery

Another £107m for arts recovery

Almost 1,000 arts organisations are to benefit from a new round of £107m worth of grants from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

£5m for community jubilee parties

£5m for community jubilee parties

A new Arts Council fund is offering £5m to help voluntary and community organisations celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee next year.

Curators share £300k development funding

Curators share £300k development funding

The Art Fund has named the 11 museum professionals that will share the Headley Fellowship’s grants this year worth £302,500 to extend their collections knowledge.

THE WORD   Under-estimating the power of the tweet

THE WORD Under-estimating the power of the tweet

Social media have become essential to arts organisations, says a new report, and often rely on underpaid and under-resourced operators. Alice Kent of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre asks what can professional networks, industry, funders and policy-makers do to ensure that digital workers are better supported

Birthday royal sculptures for Albert Hall

Birthday royal sculptures for Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall has commissioned sculptures of the Queen, Prince Philip, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from four young artists to mark its 150th anniversary.

Ten Manchester music creatives offered £1k development packages

Ten Manchester music creatives offered £1k development packages

Manchester International Festival is offering £1,000 each to ten local musicians to help them create new work as part of its MIF Sounds initiative, launched last year at the height of the pandemic.

Florence Nightingale joins Lord Mayor’s parade

Florence Nightingale joins Lord Mayor’s parade

Marking the completion of her 200th birthday celebrations., Florence Nightingale joined the Lord Mayor of London’s Show at the weekend.

Giant print plant plays host to classical experiment

Giant print plant plays host to classical experiment

A printing plant that once one of the largest in Europe has been the venue for a pioneering immersive concert.

Mariam Zulfiqar to lead Artangel

Mariam Zulfiqar to lead Artangel

Mariam Zulfiqar, Forestry England’s contemporary art programme manager since March this year, is to be the new director or of the public art producer Artangel.

Barbican takes action after damning discrimination report

Barbican takes action after damning discrimination report

The Barbican has vowed to take decisive action “to build a culture where staff feel confident, valued and respected” following a damning report by an independent investigation team.

The golden screen

There was a touching moment in Upper Regent Street the other day when Lady Lucinda Lambton cut a cake marking the 50th birthday of the Cinema Theatre Association, of which she is patron. It was in the shape of the old Twickenham Gaumont, a pre-Odeon style miniature palace of a picture house that opened in the Richmond Road in 1928 but is now long gone – there’s a petrol station on the site now, a battle that was lost.


But the Regent Street Cinema was not, and it is hard to see how this place could have gone the way of so many other pictures houses. Because here, on a February afternoon in 1896, 54 passers-by were somehow persuaded to part with one shilling each to watch a 40-second silent Lumiere Brothers film of people getting on and off a train in Lyon, becoming the first ever British cinema audience. The venue belonged to what is now Middlesex University, but it became a high temple of movies when it was lavishly done up in 1927 – not in the art deco style everyone associates old cinemas with, but a kind of Victorian classical, a few years later a Compton organ (not quite a Wurlitzer just as mighty) was added. Then television was seen as the nemesis of the film screen and in 1974 the place reverted to educational use.
 
But around the centenary of the Lumieres’ premiere there was a campaign to restore it, supported by English Heritage and with lottery money. It triumphed, but the preservationists wanted it reverted to the way it looked in 1896: the CTA argued that its golden age was post 1927, and they prevailed so that 18 months ago the Regent Street Cinema reopened as it looked in 1927, with the organ added and in fully working order.
 
Not all the campaigns are so successful and the CTA has to compete with a general belief that these buildings are of at best secondary importance, a long way down the pecking order from churches and theatres. The assumption is that all cinemas of the 20th century are art deco which they are not – although the Odeon chain gave as a Moderne classification, “Odeon style”. But they are exuberant, lavishly decorated, can be wildly elaborate, and vulgar to the purists who sniffily see them as redolent of a rather common enthusiasm. Persuading the listing authorities to consider picture houses has been an uphill battle, still is with many local planning authorities.
 
Thousands have been lost – we had 4,800 in 1946, there are fewer than 800 now – but many have been saved and given different uses as churches, pubs, cut-price stores, gyms, community centres and, of course, bingo halls. The dying of bingo has put them in peril once again.
 
Yet these places are the great equalisers. In the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s they were where young people went, the only passive entertainment they could afford and which was available on practically every street corner. Even now an evening at the cinema is cheaper than a restaurant meal, a theatre performance or even a night at the pub. There is no dress code, and many now have cafés and bars. More and more surviving cinemas converted to multi-screen are being sensitively adapted so that as much of the glorious interior is retained as possible, and the revival of art house cinemas has meant that the number of screens available in the UK has risen from barely 3,500 in 2006 to over 4,000 ten years later, and whatever is happening at the Oscars is still front page news.
 
So happy birthday, CTA, and keep fighting for our picture houses. As one former chairman says, “The association was born because of boring films – you find your eyes straying from the screen to the surroundings, and wow!” Let’s continue to be wowed.

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