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 Davidson’s schemes were withdrawn not once, but twice.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

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