Pollard’s cinema scheme suffers from a light bulb moment

The suggestion that Tim Pollard’s “announcement” that the David Lean Cinema is to re-open was in fact just a clumsy PR ruse to deflect attention from Croydon Council being taken to court over its proposed Riesco Collection sale appears to be right on the money.

Light bulb momentThe chairman of the Save the David Lean Cinema campaign group has revealed that the council has not spoken to his organisation about a re-opening for four months, nor about having his group stage regular screenings at the Clocktower venue.

He also claims that it would be impossible to screen any movies in the intimate 68-seat cinema at present because no one working for the council knows how to switch off all the house lights.

Claims that the venue is about to re-open are premature, Adrian Winchester, of the Save the David Lean Cinema, said: “We’re unsure if that will happen as we don’t yet have an agreement with the council.”

Winchester’s comments, made in a lengthy bulletin sent to the campaign’s members last week, echo the sentiments expressed by commercial organisations who approached Croydon Council about taking on the venue as part of a Community Asset Transfer, but were ultimately deterred because of the slow pace of progress in negotiations with the Town Hall.

Croydon Council's £140m new offices: anyone know how to turn off the lights?

Croydon Council’s £140m new offices: anyone know how to turn off the lights?

There is also a suggestion that some of the delays have been caused because council staff have been too busy managing their move from Taberner House into the lavishly furnished £140 million new offices at Fisher’s Folly, where there also appears to be an issue finding the off-switch for the building’s lights.

Pollard is the deputy leader of the Conservative group at the Town Hall which in 2011 decided to close the acclaimed David Lean arthouse cinema. Pollard is also one of the council cabinet members behind the pawn shop sale of 24 of the most valuable items of the Riesco Collection, which a community group claims is unlawful and in breach of the council’s own policy.

Last week, when put in a corner because of a call for a Judicial Review of his council’s decision on the Riesco sale, Pollard, like a ham-fisted Magic Circle conjuror practising his distraction techniques, leaked to the local rag that the council is about to utilise the David Lean Cinema as an auditorium and meeting room, and even as a cinema. The eager Sadvertiser swallowed this line whole.

Sadly, however, Pollard’s positive spin is just that… spin.

Winchester says that while welcoming the work that has been done recently at the cinema and the neighbouring Braithwaite Hall, “Since a first informal meeting in July, we have hoped to soon be able to announce a breakthrough in terms of what would initially be weekly afternoon and evening screenings – which would be a significant step towards our goal of the David Lean becoming a fully functioning cinema once again.

“But we have since been engaged in a slow-moving process with long gaps in communication, one of which was caused by the move out of Taberner House.

“There have been two further meetings but a council prediction that screenings should be possible from August turned out to be premature, as were our proposed reopening dates in October in November,” Winchester said.

According to Winchester, the cinema still lacks a functioning box office system, there has yet to be any volunteer recruitment or training, and the campaign group still awaits a memorandum of understanding that covers various factors including safety procedures, insurance and other responsibilities. Nor has there ever been any financial discussions over the likely hire fees which the community group would have to pay to the council in order for them to run the council-owned cinema as a cinema.

“Although we would hope that a venue within the ‘Community Space’ would be made affordable for a community group such as ourselves, it would have been foolish for us to take anything for granted and refer to a re-opening that remains far from guaranteed,” Winchester said.

“We can’t say the David Lean Cinema is reopening yet, unless someone else will be screening the films. Considering that presenting films is a major challenge even for our enthusiastic, knowledgeable and unpaid committee, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else wanting to do so in the near future. It’s disappointing that we cannot say with any certainty when there will be further progress as we don’t even know what’s causing the latest delay.”

The Fred Karno‘s Circus performance by Croydon Council over the cinema’s £20,000 digital projector – which they had moved from the intimate 68-seat venue in the mistaken belief that this carefully calibrated piece of kit could be used in the 1,600-seat main concert hall at the Fairfield Halls – has now been extended to elements of the work recently carried out within the Braithwaite Hall and David Lean auditorium.

The campaign group has had the auditorium checked and discovered cables that were missing or not connected properly. Although the council has had to pay £5,000 of Council Tax-payers’ money to recalibrate the projector – largely as a consequence of it being shifted across to Fairfield Halls and back needlessly – it is still not possible to use it to screen any films: no one has the password required to operate the machine.

Even when that obstacle is overcome, someone will need to turn off the lights in the cinema in order to screen any movies. “There also appears to be a mysterious problem that prevents us from switching off all the house lights. so that obviously needs to be dealt with before a public screening is viable,” Winchester said.

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1 Response to Pollard’s cinema scheme suffers from a light bulb moment

  1. What a farce, and all at the council tax payer’s expense.

    It now becomes clear why the Save David Lean campaign displayed a lukewarm reaction to the re-opening announcement.

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