Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Deco delights

While it may have been quite quiet on this blog recently, it's been a giddy round of pleasure in my real life: lots of jollying, drinking and sticking my fingers in my ears going "la la la, I can't hear you" in relation to work things. I've been neglecting to document anything of what I've been up to either but a little snapshot of what I've been up to comes via my Sunday and Monday nights this week, both spent gallivanting in two of London's finest Art Deco cinemas.


Sunday night was spent in a Grade I listed number, dating back to 1931 and designed by Theodore Komisarjevsky, a Russian Prince. Where was I and what was I doing? Going to Gala Bingo in Tooting, of course!


The interior is completely bonkers: ornate wooden carvings with a Deco meets Gothic look. This image shows the building, then the Granada, in its prime.


Until it closed in 1973, the building also held performances by big stars of through the period, from Vera Lynn to Billy Fury to Marianne Faithfull. This is the beautiful Marianne pictured in her changing room in the Tooting Granada after announcing her engagement to John Dunbar.

Tooting is unusual because it still has its original much prized Wurlitzer organ, and the organ was recently restored so it can rise up through the floor. Sadly this wasn't in evidence during our bingo session. In fact most of the interior has been masked by bingo tables, gambling machines and crazy signage. At least, we concluded, the bingo means the building still is being used.

The Granada, Tooting

I haven't played bingo for a long time and discovered to my disappointment that the game in 2012 isn't about "legs eleven" and "two fat ladies" - or even shouting "Bingo!" - more about getting through as many games as possible. I don't think I've ever taken part in a game when so many people grumbled as the winner was announced. And, no, I'm not bitter because I didn't win. Even though I was just one number away from a full house.

For a tale of a different Art Deco cinema, on Monday I went to the Troxy in Limehouse, where Future Cinema were re-staging their showing of the wonderful Bugsy Malone.


The Troxy was built in 1933 and until the 1980s was also a bingo hall. It was sold in 2005 to a company who decided to use the space again as a venue - I saw a marvellous Jarvis gig there a few years ago. The insides are also pretty spectacular but only Grade II listed this time...


There's also a campaign to install the Wurlitzer organ from a sister venue, Elephant and Castle's Trocadero, back into this venue (so at this point is it Tooting 2, Limehouse 0 in Art Deco cinema scoring?)


The stats from its original build are pretty amazing, including 10,000 electric light bulbs and  2.5 million bricks.

When I went to see Jarvis, I felt that the venue, however structurally spectacular,  still seemed to have a whiff of slight cheap nightclub around it. That seemed to have vanished in the make-over for Future Cinema. The actual showing for Bugsy was brilliant: I love performances where people clap each song, and the custard pie fight at the end was hysterical fun. Did I take pictures? No, I completely forgot of course which, though rubbish blogging, does give me an excuse (if any at all is ever needed) to play one of my very favourite cinema scenes and a song that lurks in a happy corner of my i-Pod.

And that's all folks...

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