Wedged between bric a brac and gardening, the Melodramatic Elephant stall was once again out on the road; this being the third leg of the Walworth festival taking place at Westmoreland Road on 19th August 2017. Sheer social bliss! The empowerment of closing off a road to traffic for the day and handing it over to the community. Aside from our stall, the Walworth Society were allowing residents a glimpse of the rich history of the area and one of the musical acts was Tom Carradine's cockney sing-a-long on the grand piano. This was neatly segmented with African drumming and a local rap artist.
It was nice to meet Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey who is a scenic artist and researcher Grit Eckert who were campaigning to save a nearby painting studio from being turned into flats. The studio is a unique listed building that was built in 1905 by Joseph Harker to accommodate his 40 feet canvas backdrops for theatres. I must visit this studio soon and make creative connections with our own project which is about the 147 year history of the Coronet (former cinema and theatre) which is earmarked for closure at the end of the year and demolition in the coming years. I am currently making designs for the staging of the play, The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle, that will be staged on the 8 November 2017 at the Coronet.
Our special guest for the day was the charming Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Charlie Smith. He was born in 1948 and had vivid memories of attending the Saturday morning picture club for children at the Odeon. It was the fantasy and adventure of the films that provided a much needed break from real life. He told us about the half-cinema smoking ban in place with the smoke drifting across the zone of the projector beam. The price of tickets was 1 and 9 or 2 and 6, which I believe is shillings and pence in pre-decimal coinage. The Mayor's favourite films of all time are The Godfather, the Bond films and musicals such as West Side Story and South Pacific.
Grisel Tarifa told us about watching films at the ABC Elephant and Castle in the 1990s. "I remember it being quite empty and very cold. It was odd that we were all sat in the balcony with no option to sit in the stalls. I remember a train going past. I could feel it rather than hear it clearly."
"I miss the convenience of having a cinema at the end of the road. I liked the character of a 'flea pit' (said affectionately), rather than the characterless cinemas on offer in the West End. I also liked the thrill of not knowing whether the thing that brushed pass your feet was a mouse or popcorn bag!"
I wonder if Nux, pictured above with Grisel, has a favourite film? Lassie Come Home or 101 Dalmatians, perhaps.
Freda Nixon was passing by and attracted to our cinematic displays. She was born in Guy's Hospital in 1951 and is a true Bow Bell's cockney. She retired last year after working as an admin assistant in the Houses of Parliament. Freda didn't have a connection with our Coronet cinema but recalled being taken to the cinema by her nan. Her favourite film is the Beatles Yellow Submarine. I loved her anecdote about life as a wee nipper, her older sister keeping a beady eye on her, as she had a run around on the Rockingham Estate. One of those mucking around with her was none other than Sir Michael Caine. Not a lot of people know that, until now!
A few stalls up from the Melodramatic Elephant, was Samina Herron who "helps people discover their beauty" with the use of clothing and fabrics. Samina was interested in our theatre-art project and the possibly of helping us customise clothing into theatrical costumes. Perhaps we might see her at a future People's Company workshop, the next scheduled is on 5 Sept at Southwark Playhouse from 7-9pm. Shamina shared a few memories of meeting up with friends on a Saturday morning and going to the pictures. She recalled the Coronet in the 1990s with its purple seats and cheap tickets. Her favourite films of all time are Star Wars, Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings cycle.
We met up with two Chinese students who were on holiday in London. I didn't have much time to speak to them alas or even get their names, as this coincided with the Mayor officially launching the festival. But when I returned to the stall it was wonderful to see they had left a lovely drawing showcasing an elegant oriental costume. Thank you!
Now we move onto the younger generation of talented residents of Southwark. Georgia got off to a flying start with this scenic image of a boat travelling the world's ocean under the most majestic of skies. This is the type of adventure and fantasy that the Mayor had talked about when describing his childhood!
From left to right, we have Lorraine, Rani and Alliayah. While mum was having a massage, these three super-duper sisters worked together on 2 and 3 dimensional images that brought our theatre model to life. Once again the sea and boats evoke a world of exotic travel. Bravo!
We end with our youngest participant on the day. Mae started off making an abstract map of sorts, but then added in a boat (the nautical theme was catching!) and then to dramatise matters, a sea monster! It was lovely to hear her describe using a telescope to spy on the creature, keeping it under observation and then sailing around and over it. So maybe that boat had magical wings to fly!
Our next scheduled Melodramatic Elephant public event is on Saturday 30th September from 11-5pm at Elephant Park.
I look forward to sea monsters and boats that fly!
Reflecting the views of artists, actors, residents
and participants in
The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle.
An art project about the Coronet from 1872-2017.
Directing and acting
Jacko at the Coronet?
Ale and steak pies
This Is Where I Came In
Pollock's Toy Museum
Adventure with the Mayor
Reach for the stars
Ghost of Marie Henderson
Shop till the zombie drops
Faith, Hope and Charity
Singing and sketching
History and legacy
Dark Side of Metropolis
Walworth Street Festival
Interview with Sam Porter
Blood and Thunder
Culture and Capital