Public pressure on arts provision in the borough has forced the Conservative-run council to make a significant U-turn, with the promise of the re-opening of the David Lean Cinema for the new year.
Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of the Tory group on Croydon Council, leaked the outline detail of the plan to re-open the art house cinema in the Clocktower when he was put in a corner over the legal challenge to his pawn shop scheme to flog off the most valuable parts of the Riesco Collection of priceless china.
Clearly under pressure over the borough’s arts policy (or lack of it), Pollard opted to put some “good news” into the public domain to distract from the shambles of the possible postponement of next month’s £13 million china auction.
The 60-seat David Lean Cinema, named after the Croydon-born Oscar-winning movie director, was closed in 2011 by Pollard’s Tory colleague, Sara “Book Token” Bashford – the instigator of the privatisation of Croydon’s public libraries which has worked out so very well.
Opposition to the cinema closure from national treasure Ronnie Corbett and Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes, plus residents forming the Save the David Lean Campaign, was ignored by Croydon Council which ploughed ahead with its “cost-cutting measure”. This “cost-cutting” was despite the fact that the David Lean Cinema, together with the Clocktower bar and cafe, was operating in the black except for the cost of security in the building. Keeping the Clocktower secure has been an on-going cost since 2011, without any income from the bar or the cinema. Another half-arsed scheme, therefore, from Book Token (whose day job is to work as an assistant to local MP Gavin Barwell…).
The closure of the David Lean Cinema was typical of the council’s Philistine attitude to the arts, which also saw the annual Mela music festival being axed and the modest grant to the independent Warehouse Theatre being cut, forcing that venue’s closure after 35 years of acclaimed productions.
Demolition workers moved in on the Victorian-built, oak-beamed former cement warehouse on Dingwall Road over the weekend, in an act which very much symbolises the ruined state of the arts in Croydon.
“I spent nine years as company secretary of the Warehouse Theatre,” said Timothy Godfrey, Croydon Labour’s arts and culture spokesman. “It is a sad day, but the hope for Croydon is that we start to undo the damage done to the arts by the Conservative council over the last eight years. The Tories tried to destroy the Warehouse Theatre. They closed the David Lean Cinema. They have closed the borough gallery. They have ended down the arts education programme.
“They have promised at two elections to refurbish the Fairfield Halls and have broken that promise twice.
“With fresh hope provided by the Riesco Collection campaign, we may be at the turning point that Croydon so deserves,” Godfrey said.
Pollard’s plans for the David Lean Cinema will see the venue utilised as an auditorium and meeting room, as well as a cinema. Any films programme is likely to be limited, initially at least, to one day each week, to be run by the Save the David Lean Campaign, the voluntary group which will be charged a rental for using the building for the purpose it was intended. Schemes along these lines were put to Pollard’s Tory colleagues on the council before the closure, providing the sort of imagination and marketing vision so lacking from the current Town Hall administration. But all such ideas were dismissed out of hand.
- The Riesco resignation: Doesn’t Pollard read his mail?
- Riesco objections: Croydon Council’s squandering our heritage
- Is Croydon on the brink with £1 billion borough debt?
Coming to Croydon
- PJ’s enterprising look at Black History Month: Oct 29
- The Railway Children: Oct 30-Nov 2
- Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow: Nov 5-8
- St Giles School open morning: Nov 13
- Secret Love at the Ashcroft Theatre: Nov 14
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- Riesco Collection at Croydon Museum (lineandwash.blogspot.com)
- Council quits museum group after spat over Chinese art sale labelled ‘cultural vandalism’ (london24.com)
- Council warned over ceramics auction (bbc.co.uk)
- Council faces massive compensation bill over housing failings (insidecroydon.com)