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Flickering, lost, forgotten: London’s silent picture palaces

zclef7810 June 2014

Hale's_Tours_of_the_WorldWill you come with me to a talkie to-day?

During my second film event of the UCL Festival of the Arts in two days, I was transported back to the origins of cinema in London’s ‘filmland’.  From the bright lights of Leicester Square to the back alleys of Soho, our group of fifteen retraced the steps of early twentieth-century film-goers through Bloomsbury and the West End.

There were a few familiar faces from the previous night’s event Memories of 60s Cinema-Going, all equally curious to discover the hidden stories behind these hitherto innocuous buildings dotted around London.

Led by Dr Chris O’Rourke (UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects) who is researching the social experience of cinema-going in the period of silent film, we began in front of the brutish façade of the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road.

The birth of cinema in London, we were told, was Newman Street, 1894, where private demonstrations of peepshow kinetoscope machines showing a mixture of everyday and spectacular theatrical subjects were captivating 19th century audiences.

From these flickering beginnings, 500 cinemas opened in the London area. Tottenham Court Road alone was home to six including The Majestic Picturedrome, Carlton Cinema and The Court (not the pub) where  The Dominion now stands. Somehow they were all commercially successful, just as today’s Starbucks and Costa manage inexplicably to sell enough Americanos to reside next to each other.

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What does the future hold for London beyond the 2012 Games?

news editor20 March 2012

By PhD Planning Studies students Gabriel Silvestre & Lucy Natarajan

Many Londoners are wondering what will happen after the Olympic Games in London this summer, especially those studying planning at UCL. At the time of writing, the university is in talks with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the body tasked with managing the development of the Olympic 2012 venues after the Games are over. They are discussing a potential additional campus in Newham, next to the Olympic Park. Lessons from the Bartlett School of Planning’s latest London Planning Seminar demonstrate that there is a wide range of factors that can help shape the future of London’s East End.

Kathryn Firth, Chief of Design at the OPLC and Professor John Gold from Oxford Brookes University spoke at a double-bill seminar on the evening of 15th March. The event, entitled ‘Olympic Planning: London Beyond 2012’, focused on evaluating the developmental trajectories of Olympic host cities, including London and others. These distinguished speakers shared their experiences and knowledge, and explored post-Olympic scenarios for London. They asked: What does the history of the Olympics tells us about the urban outcomes? How will the planned Olympic spaces integrate with the wider area? How does London’s post-Olympic work compare with the experiences of previous urban regeneration programmes?

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