Pasley Park in Kennington boasts animal and royal pedigree. Once upon a time, roughly two decades from the 1830's, it was the site of the Royal Zoological Gardens with tigers, apes, bears, pygmy elephants and the first publicly shown giraffes in Britain. It even numbered Queen Victoria among its visitors! So it was a fitting location for the Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle, our community stall promoting our upcoming play (8th Nov) and art exhibition (11-23 Nov) about the history of the Coronet.
It was good to see familiar faces passing by. We last met Emine at the opening of Elephant Park and she told us she came to England in 1967 and promptly made a drawing that included a flag of her motherland. As I had her previous drawing to hand she added in some more touches to her art work in-between buying raffle tickets at the adjacent stall. Once again there was rain in the festive air, but Emine's sun was able to banish away those dark clouds. However, I don't think she was so lucky at the raffle.
Two of the children taking part in the art session were Antonio and Mia. Antonio is 6 years old and started to draw some exquisite musical instruments for an orchestra that might be playing in our scale model theatre. We had a piano, drum, guitar and a tuba. A tuba? Well this was actually sketched by his dad, Steven, a talented tuba player who once performed in many youth jazz orchestras. Mia is a shade younger and so took a more abstract approach to art, drawing a charming face and several mysterious objects. It was nice to hear Mia's mum. Rebecca, explain to her daughter the assorted film stars that we had on display, including two local boys from the Elephant and Castle, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Caine.
While Antonio was making his sketch, another of our old friends from previous events, Augustine Nyemah was setting up his trio of African drummers who proceeded to beat a pattern of sound across the park that kept the rain clouds away while also entertaining the crowds.
During the afternoon, it was a great pleasure to meet several residents of the area and to hear their experiences of the former ABC cinema that was housed at the Coronet.
Pamele Petrucci was born in the 1950s and recalled going to Saturday morning cinema for the children at the ABC Elephant and Castle. We discovered that her husband's Italian grandmother who had a cafe in East Street (where the plaque for Chaplin is located) used to supply the cinema with ice-cream. She also listed the Godfather as one of her favourite films and described how its portrayal of Italian family dynamics and father figures chimed with her own life story.
Wendy Watson was born in the 1930s and recalled going to the cinema twice a week and adoring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. That must be Singing in the Rain! It Thankfully, we only had the one drizzle and heavy downpour, all afternoon!
Graham De Kennengton attended the ABC cinema in the latter phase of its existence when it was a bit of a flea-pit! He recounted how Michael Jackson was booked to rehearse at the Coronet for his scheduled This Is It concerts in 2009-10. But he withdrew shortly afterwards. Graham has a photo of his name appearing on the billboard outside the venue. Was this true? I would love to see that photograph and discover more about this story.
This reminds me of how Charlie Chaplin is rumoured to have performed at the Elephant and Castle Theatre before it was converted into the ABC Cinema and the Coronet. I think this unlikely. Chaplin never mentions it, neither does his numerous biographers. But we can definitely report that in the early 1970's, Michael Caine bumped into Chaplin around the Elephant and Castle as they were both fond of revising their old stomping grounds, dressed incognito but, one imagines, with a Rolls close at hand. I wonder if any of these facts or fictions will weave their way into our melodramatic play and art display?
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.
Past present future
Music and animation
Euan Vincent on Horror
Tiberius Chis on Chaplin
Final Curtain Call
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