The independent London newspaper

Monty Python star Michael Palin swings behind plan for new cinema and arts club in Kentish Town

09 July, 2014

AN unprecedented alliance of leading cultural figures – including Monty Python star Michael Palin – has added its support to plans to open a new cinema and arts club in Kentish Town.

It follows the New Journal’s exclusive last week in which we revealed that casting director Susie Figgis and her movie director cousin Mike Figgis are keen to turn a former ­Pizza Express building into a new centre for film, theatre and performance.

A decision on whether the building, the former North London Polytechnic, can be converted into a new cinema was due at a planning meeting tonight (Thursday) but it has been postponed until Tuesday due to industrial action by council staff.

The verdict will hinge on how many storeys the building’s owners, Redview, are allowed to add for new homes. Planning officers have previously recommended councillors block an extra two floors, which the developers say are needed to fund the conversion to the cinema to the ground floor.

Mr Palin, who lives in Gospel Oak, told the New Journal: “I was most encouraged to hear of the Figgis plan for the North London Polytechnic building. The creation of an arts and cultural centre seems an appropriate use of the building’s original educational purpose and reflects the increasingly lively presence in Kentish Town of small business involved in film, photography and television. The Poly is a landmark in Kentish Town and any attempt to return it to the community should be welcomed.”

Meanwhile, playwright Polly Stenham, whose work is showcased at the Royal Court, told the New Journal the club could offer young writers a valuable stage for their work. 

She said: “Arts venues that genuinely offer space for  up-and-coming writers are few and far between. Kentish Town is such a richly diverse area, it would be ideal to have a showcase for new talent.”

The New Journal revealed what the new cinema could look like earlier this year

Her views were echoed by modern art gallery curator Victoria Williams, who runs the celebrated Cob Gallery in near by Royal College Street. 

She said: “It’s a lovely building and to see it returned to having an educational and arts use would be ideal. Kentish Town deserves something of this type.”

The swell of excitement follows comments made by Ms Figgis, who has worked on seminal British films such as Gandhi, The Killing Fields and Harry Potter, and cousin Mike Figgis last week. They suggested the new cinema could be as successful and diverse as the celebrated Tricycle in Kilburn. 

Their idea has also been backed by the Town Hall, while the New Journal has learned a leading internationally known model and actress are also involved, as is a leading figure in the British media industry.

The building has been empty since Pizza Express closed more than two years ago. 

Cinema managers Shortwave, who run a single screen picture house in Bermondsey, have said they would like to manage the film side of the project.



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