Saturday 24th September

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Backyard Cinema – The Speakeasy of The Movies

| Cinema, Hidden London | 25/07/2013

BYC london fields

As a city London has a particular feel: it’s archaic and traditional yet eclectic and original. There are few events that could claim to perfectly capture the spirit of modern London whilst allowing the participant to engage in the escapism of some of their more preferred mediums. Backyard Cinema, however, does just that. It’s a roaming cinema that pops up and moves from location to location in order to bring an audience a very different type of cinema experience. I think the highest compliment that I could pay to the event is to label it as ‘Speakeasy Cinema’: the type of outing that upon arrival will find you clutching a vintage cocktail and immersed in the sounds of Latin-jazz fusion. You could quite easily equate the experience to sneaking through the back of a 1920’s pharmacy to find yourself in a world of hidden delight, and that’s all before you sit down to watch your film of choice. Of course, that doesn’t detract away from the fact that families are more than welcome, it’s just that one gets the sense that this event is definitely aimed at a more adult demographic.

At anyone of their venues (Camden and London Fields Brewery amongst others) you’ll find yourself in an environment rich in nostalgia and eccentricity. The event organisers will greet you with a warm smile as you purchase your tickets and show you through to a small courtyard that is ringing in the sounds of chatting friends and friendly vendors. Whether you prefer a little ‘Cheeky Italian’ meal, a Korrito (Korean Burrito) or warm and freshly buttered popcorn there is food enough to satisfy even the most outlandish of cravings. My only criticism would be that the vegetarians among us may have to settle for a liquid lunch as there isn’t much for them to be offered. The bar is reasonably priced and has a choice of cocktails, ales and ciders on offer.

As for the screening you’ll find yourself reclined on a bean bag or in a deck chair before a home made screen lit by circus lighting that only adds to the lovably eccentric feel that makes this an experience that I would happily devote another Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon to. I was fortunate enough to be able to see Jurassic Park and hearing the cheers of the audience as John William’s classic theme issued forth from the speakers awoke the eight year old boy in me, and he’s been dying to see this flick on the big screen for a long time. In fact you’re encouraged to clap, cheer and whoop as the organisers really want you to lose yourself in the moment. As Oliver Stone said:

One of the joys of going to the movies was that it was trashy, and we should never lose that.

Dominic Davies, of Backyard cinema, informed me that it was all born of a need to satisfy his creative outlet, “Well basically we had a party and someone left a projector,” he says with a chuckle, “and before I knew it I was building a screen out of plywood and bed sheets, moving the furniture into the garden and inviting the neighbours. Before long we’d have fifty people in the garden for a theme party dressed as the Blues Brothers to watch the Blues Brothers. That’s where it all started and here we are nearly a year later.”  He went on to explain to me, “I still go to my local cinema, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone, I just wanted to do something different.”

BYC Independent cinemas are unfortunately few and far between, and the majority of modern movie theatres are a chain company owned or subsidised by one of many parent corporations. As such, they tend to lose touch with the very essence of what cinema should be as an experience. The customer is expected to present their credit card, chow down on cardboard like snacks and spends two hours glued to a chair that starts as plush velvet, but eventually feels like iron. However, Backyard Cinema puts the viewer back in touch with the nature of cinema, not just as an artistic medium, but as an event that is seeped in the magic of the movies. Because that is exactly what the movies are all about: fantasy. Backyard Cinema enables you to lose yourself in a hidden world that has a touch of exclusivity, whilst retaining its all round appeal. The sights, sounds and smells that are regaled upon your senses before you settle down in the dark only add to the notion that here one can truly let go of reality, even if it is only for a little while.

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James Alexander Minogue

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