Tuesday, 30 March 2010

More Arthur Melbourne-Cooper

Maybe I should start a new blog titled Arthur Melbourne-Cooper Appreciation because he does seem to crop up ever more frequently. In fact St Albans is now being seen as a centre for film-themed tourism ...see Michael Pedley's piece on Suite 101. It's a nice idea. And really keen film obsessed visitors could also stop off at Borehamwood and visit the sites of the great studios once there.And Hertsmere council could think about some kind of centre to catch all that history before it vanishes for ever.

St Albans does seem to have woken up to this aspect of its heritage. There's the Museum's Kubrick exhibition and related activities starting this week ..see their site for more info. We needn't trade on the Romans and the Abbey for ever. Stuff has happened since the 11th century and Arthur Melbourne-Cooper is a very attractive part of it. Of course you do start to wonder what kind of man he was to have left this stubborn creative mark on the town. One of his friends, another local lad, draper's son Roger Pamphilon, said this about him...

He was the most extraordinary personality. He wouldn't stop at anything. He was living 50 years in advance of the times.

Monday, 22 March 2010

latest on Alpha campaign

see on allaboutstalbans recent statement from J.H. which includes comments on the lack of support/criticism from political parties

Intriguing that St Albans School has taken an interest in the (minor) divisions locally - can see this would be a model exercise for GCSE English Language or Media Studies coursework. At least a B I'd say. I just hope Joe and Mark, the writers, are now really keen supporters of the Alpha campaign.

For those of you who have tenaciously followed the ups and downs of this debate - you might be interested in this letter from the Civic Soc. which was sent to the Review at the end of Feb but did not see the light of day. Who knows why. Anyway here it is now. A little late but still topical it seems.

Dear Editor


For a former member of the Civic Society, and a former district councillor, Andrew Rose seems remarkably ill-informed about local affairs.
In a political news sheet recently circulated in central St Albans, he suggested that the Civic Society was intent on turning The Odeon into an exclusive art house cinema (wrong), and now (Review, 24 February) he puts forward the idea that we opposed the concept of a city centre cinema in principle.
In fact it was quite the other way round . At the time of the Council’s ill-starred partnership with developer Henry Davidson, we commissioned an award-winning architect to design a cinema worthy of this setting. It was presented to the Council, and received much publicity, not just local.
And that’s the point. A city centre cinema in a place as sensitive as St Albans needs to be a whole lot more that a clutter of boxes with expensively dug out parking beneath and storey upon storey of skyline-shattering flats on top to pay for it..
This is what the Civic Society opposed, along with many St Albans residents, and the Council’s own planners. Davidson’s schemes were withdrawn not once, but twice. Surely you remember, Mr Rose.
Yes, we too know that local young people want a cinema, but it mustn’t be at all costs. Having the latest horror film a few streets away doesn’t make up for lowest common denominator architecture, and surely our aim should be to enrich people’s lives with their surroundings, not coarsen them.
What’s been so exciting about The Odeon campaign has been the number of young people involved, creating their own publicity and using their expertise in the latest technology to spread the word. Clearly they realise there’s more to life than multiplexes.
And would a multiplex provide the width of programming Andrew Rose yearns for? Or would some seven-screen cinema be filling six of them with the latest blockbuster? What’s good about The Rex, as well as its choice, is its flexibility. A year or two ago, the cry went up for Mother and Baby afternoons: and behold, with careful monitoring and adaptation, they still exist. I wonder, could a multiplex be so responsive?
By the time this letter is published, we may know if James Hannaway has succeeded in his bid to secure The Odeon, and the project, which has caught the imagination of so many in and about St Albans, will move on to the long haul of gathering funds for restoration. I do hope Andrew Rose will watch, and listen, and learn. And perhaps even join in.

Yours sincerely

Marion Hammant
St Albans Civic Society

Sunday, 21 March 2010

More about Arthur Melbourne-Cooper & St Albans

Tjitte de Vries (L.) Marion Hammant (Centre) and Ati Mul (R.) met last Thursday in the Abbey Refectory to talk about Arthur Melbourne -Cooper and his link with the Alpha. As everyone in St Albans knows Marion has done much to help save the cinema and is now planning a conducted walk on the 20th June (see SACS site for more info) to show interested members of the public the sites associated with Melbourne-Cooper's career here.

Did you know know , for example, that Melbourne-Cooper's father's first photographic studio was in what is now the Chinese take-away on the corner of Watson's Walk? Or that M-C's logo was the Hertfordshire hart? It all just gets more and more local.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Alpha studio films

In a mood of (cautious) celebration I've been watching the dvd which comes with They thought it was a marvel by T de Vries and Ati Mul. All the films are interesting of course but I most loved Noah's Ark...much of it made in the bath at the Melbourne -Cooper family home in Alma Road as well as in basement of the first Alpha cinema. What is interesting is not just the pioneering technical skill but the tender creation of that animated imaginative world for an audience of children which we all now know so well - very impressive rain, cute animals moving cutely, lots of little jokes such as the bossy elephants being more competent than Noah at running a boat, a lovably happy ending. You'll have to buy the book to watch it..but go to the Bioscope site for a chance to view the famous Dream of Toyland, with its very naughty white bear...

Melbourne-Cooper seems to have been the very first pioneering cinematographer who saw that animated film would be of enormous significance for audiences of children...yet another reason to be glad the site is rescued for the kind of cinema the Alpha will be....

More thanks from Jas.Hannaway on allaboutstalbans site. At some point we shd. thank him. This country is/was full of cinemas whose sad histories read 'bingo;demolition;supermarket'...just 5 minutes Googling will prove that...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Alpha return

Before we citizens of St Albans start to think of champagne-fuelled conga-ing up and down London Road, it is good to reflect that we have not only retrieved a place of entertainment for ourselves, but a significant chunk of cultural history....the site of some of the earliest film making ever. This is where Arthur Melbourne-Cooper made at least 6 films in 1908-1910, including the wonderful sounding Cats' Cup Final, starring toy tabbies bought in Hamleys and brought back to St Albans in a basket on the train.

When I e mailed the de Vries's (authors of the recent book on Melbourne-Cooper)to tell them about the Alpha's renaissance they said:

Both Cooper's daughters, Audrey and Ursula who have helped us so much with our book, would be very pleased to hear this.

All the more reason to feel proud of what we've done.

Alpha rescue fund tops £1milllion

See the rex for details and allaboutstalbans.

Well done St Albans.

Monday, 8 March 2010

alpha cinema - total now£971k

It might be a Monday and cold, but it's nearly spring and the Rex is telling us the money has reached £971,000. It also says don't celebrate yet.

Maybe the point for celebrating is a long way off. After all there will be 2 years of more money raising and trying not to listen to those who will still be saying 'they'll never do it/we need a mulitplex.' And even when/and if the Alpha finally opens they'll still be there saying the same miserable, carping, negative things.

Some of us, maybe quite a lot of us, might however have allowed ourselves a glass of champagne by then....

Friday, 5 March 2010

the Alpha campaign - some stats

No. of weeks since inaugural meeting at the Rex: 14

No. of weeks of frenzied campaigning for £: 6

No. of Friends on Facebook 2984
(if they were really friendly we could have bought three cinemas by now)

No. of editorial tantrums score: 2-1… to the Herts Ad

No. of Rex/Hannaway tantrums (in public, anyway): 0

Degree of support from council/political parties: 0%

Degree of community support: 99%

No. of times close friends nagged by me to sponsor a seat: too often,probably

No. of times I’ve looked at Odeon and wanted to cry : lost count

St Albans Odeon is now Tweeting

as a species cinemas seem to Tweet rather a lot but I think St Albans can claim to have the only derelict tweeting cinema in the
entire world....

Many thanks to St Albans Museum service for its support and encouragement...earns them the distinction of being the ONLY public sector/cultural organisation to give this campaign to rescue our cinema active support. The Alpha will not forget this.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Alpha St Albans..almost made it....

total now £944,000!!!!! I don't much like exclamation marks but for once gave into temptation to use a few...this is now so close...

A mere (my, how all this has changed my perspective on money - I normally think of a tenner as a big sum) £56,000 to get now.....just 56 sponsors. What's 56? One Routemaster load of people.

See allaboutstalbans for latest statement from Jas.Hannaway.

the Alpha St Albans - there is no more time

Another £75,000 needed (see today's Herts Ad) and time is now a matter of hours rather than days..so all those people who've been meaning to get round to sponsoring a seat but haven't because their money ' is tied up' or they are by nature are the kind of people who always wait for others to test the water, and who want everything in life to come with a cast iron guarantee, should take a deep breath and loosen the money up a bit or learn how to take a (small) risk..and sponsor a seat.

If there are 75 of you out there dithering then for once grit your teeth and jump. Or do you want to go down in local history as the 75 who ruined the whole endeavour?

It won't hurt and you will be proud of yourself.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

the Alpha - the emotional cost

Well, that’s both of them – another editor has cracked…see today’s Review. As regular readers know this blog got on the wrong side of the Herts Ad. quite sometime ago ( see post/comments 28 January ).

And the Labour party ‘s local activists are the wild eyed Ancient Mariners of this tale, wandering around stopping anyone who’ll listen, to croak on about how we ‘really need a multiplex’. At the same time the other political parties and the council remain conspicuous by their absence from the ups and downs of this mighty local effort, in the way Iago is absent from the action in Othello.

Meanwhile the rest of us spend our time obsessively logging onto allaboutstalbans in the hope that things might have moved on significantly. It may as well be the default setting on my browser.

If this comes to a successful conclusion no doubt time will cast a rosy glow over the past few weeks. But it hasn’t been easy. Especially if you’re a journalist or apparatchik (which I’m not, thankfully).

And I still think it would have been appropriate, even dignified for the Herts Ad to have sponsored a seat.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Alpha fund - speeding up

It's now 7.45 p.m. (by my watch - I can't understand where that 11.42 comes from) and we have £913 thousand on allaboutstalbans site yet the Herts Ad on line is saying £921 thousand...

all in the best cinematic tradition of course. Some of us haven't got any fingernails left.

Alpha fund now £911k

....so £89,000 to go.

If a well heeled town like this can't turn its pockets out and find that by the end of the week then maybe we don't deserve a cinema. £89,000 wouldn't even buy a garden shed round some streets here.

What St Albans could do with is a few more risk taking citizens...then we wouldn't be in danger of becoming the indoorsy, sluggish dormitory we are horribly likely to turn into.