Exploring London

Opposing The Demolition Of The Kensington Odeon

I hardly ever go to the cinema these days. Once a year at most. But there was a time, when I was living in South Kensington and going to uni just off Kensington High Street, when I went quite often. And I always went to the Kensington Odeon.

It was where I watched Stardust and thought it was excellent; where I was so disappointed by The Golden Compass that I swore never to watch a film adaptation of a book again (something I went back on in later years, which was lucky; The Hunger Games and The Book Thief are excellent).

It was where I went on many dates with my then boyfriend, where we sat in the front row because that was what he always insisted we do. Where I craned my neck backwards slightly to watch what was going on, rooting around in overpriced popcorn and pick ‘n’ mix containers before we got wise to the idea of smuggling in our own.

The Odeon in 1987, (c) Mawgrim's Worlds
The Odeon in 1987, (c) Mawgrim’s Worlds

A while ago, a group of developers wanted to knock it down and turn it into flats. Except that there are a couple of problems with that plan: firstly, the local community isn’t exactly ecstatic about the idea of demolishing one of their historic landmarks; and secondly, there are already so many luxury flats in West London. We can live without even more properties being built by conglomerates, bought by investors and then sitting empty, driving up the already insane property prices throughout the city, right?

Right.

Luckily, the plans for “development” of this kind were thrown out a while ago, following protests from the local community and from various public figures, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan.

Instead, locals are urging the council to turn it into an Asset of Community Value.

(c) ianthearchitect.org
(c) ianthearchitect.org

What would that mean?

The idea centres around the Odeon having been Alfred Hitchcock’s local cinema when he lived on Cromwell Road. The building would be renamed “The Hitchcock” and turned into a space that would benefit the local community – the people who were already frequenting the cinema when it was still open – and would do so even more than it used to.

The Friends of Kensington Odeon are working on the project, which would aim to provide a number of spaces for community arts projects. There would be a theatre for classical concerts, opera, and plays. A smaller theatre would also exist, for film and theatre performances.

The top floor would house a rehearsal studio with broadcasting ability on TV and radio. There would also be a gallery space for visual arts, and a cafe/bar for visitors and members.

The Hitchcock would also house local community projects and initiatives.

Which sounds much nicer than tearing it down and putting up flats, right?

Yes.

There’s a community meeting today (Wednesday 25th May) at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street. It starts at 4.45pm but people are meeting outside from 4.30. More details on FTHN.

You can also follow updates from the Friends of Kensington Odeon on Change.org.

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