Hidden in the back streets of Elephant & Castle is a true film-lover’s gem. Picture this – the old converted Master’s House of the Lambeth workhouse, a Victorian gothic building that supposedly housed Charlie Chaplin and his destitute mother. You walk down corridors covered with memorabilia, where black and white head shots of stars of the past look on as you find your way to the alter of the Cinema Museum. After paying an extremely reasonable £3 you find yourself in a vast room with people of all ages buzzing for the evenings proceedings. Tables and chairs fill one half of the room for guests to enjoy a drink and discuss what we can only assume is there collective love of this glorious place. Staff greet customers by their first names, emphasising the community approach to the London establishment.
Winding your way past ancient Dalek-like cameras and huge hanging billboards from Hollywood’s golden age feels like walking up the yellow brick road, and this surreal experience transports you to the world of cinema like every exhibition house should.
Nibbling mini samosas and moist cherry cake, we witnessed two very talented, not to mention physically fit, piano players accompanying a couple of Lupino Lane films (with brilliant notes by Glenn Mitchell), and then Le Voyage Imaginaire, Rene Clair’s beautiful avant-garde feature from 1926. The whole experience takes you back in time and really gave you a glimpse of how these film were originally seen by audiences. Sitting in a room full of mish-mash seating with only a piano player at the helm really gave the impression you were sitting in a 1920s converted picture house, just spending the night catching the latest Lupino flick. The evening (The Kennington Bioscope, a regular event) was all-encompassing and magical, from the decor, to the crowd, to the music, and of course, the screenings.