Tory peer condemns “meaningless” cut at David Lean Cinema

Oscar winner Julian Fellowes: closing the David Lean Cinema makes no sense for Croydon's budget cuts

Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes has added his support to  the campaign to save the David Lean Cinemawith a strong letter to council’s chief executive condemning the closure of the Croydon art house theatre as a “meaningless” cut.

Lord Fellowes, who is working on the second series of his creation, Downton Abbey, the BBC period drama, said in his letter, “It would be a real mistake to assume that the Government wishes to see any facilities that add to the public’s quality of life closed down where there is a feasible alternative.”

Lord Fellowes won the Oscar for best screenplay in 2002 for Gosforth Park. He was created a life peer by the government last year and sits on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords.

He was very impressed by the David Lean Cinema when he visited it earlier this year and personally endorsed part of the cinema’s final programme of movies in April. It was after his visit that he sent his letter against the closure to Jon Rouse, Croydon Council’s chief executive, and to Mike Fisher, the leader of the Tory group on the council.

“The continuation of your support for the cinema would be a very, very minor element in your budget, while its loss to the community, and especially pensioners, will be very great,” Lord Fellowes wrote.

As reported by Inside Croydon, Ronnie Corbett has inspired a campaign to save the David Lean Cinema, calling the council’s plans to close the venue “monstrous”.

“What a waste it is that it isn’t going to be further treasured,” Corbett told one of the cinema’s final audiences.

In a poll of Inside Croydon readers, 96 per cent said that they want the David Lean Cinema to be kept open at its proper location, the Clock Tower arts centre in the old Town Hall.

Despite such obvious public opposition, Croydon’s Head of Philistinism, Councillor Sara “Book Token” Bashford, who pockets a second salary as a parliamentary researcher for Gavin Barwell MP, is pursuing a plan to move the David Lean‘s equipment to the Fairfield Halls. No date for the move has been announced, no budget discussed or approved and no programmes yet arranged. Council officers have even told staff that the move will not happen.

Campaigners want to re-open the David Lean Cinema

And as Lord Fellowes has written in his letter to Croydon Council, the closure of the David Lean Cinema and any move is entirely unnecessary.

In his letter, Fellowes described the David Lean Cinema as “a well-run operation, under the inspired leadership of Sam Hunt, which more or less pays for itself”.

Fellowes went on to describe the cherished Croydon cinema as “a real bonus to the community, from the young who are curious about the history of film, to pensioners who are enabled to see new and old films in company and comfort, which gives your electorate choice beyond the decisions of the large, commercially steered cinema chains.

“What makes the decision harder to understand is one of the main reasons cited for the withdrawal of the Council’s support was the costs of maintaining the building, but of course the closing of the cinema will have no effect on that.  There will still be a (very interesting) building that requires your maintenance.  The only difference will be that one of its benefits to the community will have been withdrawn.

“In short, the continuation of your support for the cinema would be a very, very minor element in your budget, while its loss to the community, and especially pensioners, will be very great.

“I am only anxious lest, as I have said above, you have somehow gained the impression that the Government will be pleased to see facilities like this shut down when there is no fiscal need to close them.  That is not so.  The cuts must be made, we all know that, but where they can be achieved without the loss of projects that provide education or instruction or even just plain pleasure, then that can only be greeted with congratulation.”

The David Lean Cinema, named after Croydon scion Sir David Lean, the Oscar-winning director of Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai and Brief Encounter, is an intimate venue in Croydon’s Clock Tower complex which over its 16-year history developed a strong reputation for showing the very best movies, classic re-releases and recent favourites. The cinema was so highly respected that it became the most southern venue used for the London Film Festival.

The Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign wants to encourage all movie fans and arts lovers from across south London and beyond to attend its first meeting to look at ways to re-open the venue. The meeting is to be held at the Green Dragon pub from 7pm on Wednesday, June 22.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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