The first stage of an ambitious cultural heritage website (www.islingtonslostcinemas.com) that charts and celebrates the history of cinemas in Islington has been launched to coincide with Sam Nightingale’s exhibition at A Brooks Art in London.
Islington’s Lost Cinemas is a project that unearths, collects, and illuminates the multiple histories and present-day realities of Islington’s cinematic past; and the online archive that Nightingale is developing brings the cinematic past of the Islington into focus through contemporary photography, the archive, and the voice of the local community.
The Islington’s Lost Cinemas website combines contemporary images and archive images, moving-image history and the reminiscences of Islington’s own community (through the invitation for those who remember the cinemas to contribute stories and photographs of the cinemas) to provide a fascinating resource that enlivens the history of cinema and its architecture in Islington.
This first stage of the website goes back to the very roots of film by highlighting a number of the older cinemas in the Borough; one detailed entry on the website concerns the Variety Picture Palace – a type of cinema commonly known as a ‘penny gaff’ – which opened in a shop front on Caledonian Road in 1909. Other entries bring to life what a challenge running a local cinema in the 1920s and 30s was for many, a desperation that is echoed in the words of Elias Cohen – the last owner of the Copenhagen Cinema – which describe the implications of having to install sound equipment in the cinema in 1931.
Over the coming months information on the other cinemas will be added to the website and hopefully visitors to the site will also contribute their own stories, information and photographs. Nightingale suggests the resource is not about presenting a static history of something long-gone but rather that the website should become a growing living archive that can hold something of the social and cultural history of cinema in Islington.
If you or someone you know remembers Islington’s old cinemas, please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org