Anger Over Silent Cinema Cancellation

Councillors accused of 'callous disregard' for constituents' interests


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Local businesses and community groups have responded with dismay to the news that a 'silent cinema' event planned to take place on Turnham Green is no longer going to proceed.

The proposal was for a pop-up cinema where the audience wear headphones and a food market on Turnham Green for one weekend. The event was to coincide with the Chiswick Book Festival in September, so the films chosen were to be “book-to-film” movies with additional promotion of council library services, reading and education.

The organisers were the Council's leisure services partner John Laing who were working with Nomad Cinema and Hounslow’s Safety Advisory Group. However, after objections from some local residents and those of local Councillors Samantha Davies and Adrian Lee the project was cancelled.

Rebecca Frayn, chair of Friends of Turnham Green, said, 'I was extremely disappointed to hear that Councillor Lee and Davis had effectively vetoed the silent cinema and food market without any kind of consultation with us - given that we are the primary community stake holder in the Green. The theatre event John Laings organised on Turnham Green last year was exceptionally well organised and this years proposed event, organised in tandem with the literary festival, would have benefited both local residents and businesses alike.'

Concerns have been expressed about the unwillingness of Councillors to give support to community initiatives in and around Turnham Green and the High Road and their lack of response to requests to meet with local amenity groups.

Karen Liebreich of the Chiswick High Road Action Group said, 'It was only when one of us contacted John Laing to find out the arrangements that we discovered it had all been cancelled. We all felt that it wd have been more helpful if the groups, businesses and councillors involved could have met to discuss the whole matter before a decision was reached."

David Lesniak, who runs the Outsider Tart bakery on Chiswick High Road and was involved with the silent cinema project said, 'the effort was thwarted at the eleventh hour by ward councillors who have a history of being disinterested in any initiatives proposed for maintaining let alone improving the quality of life in W4.  This type of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by individuals who seem to have a callous disregard for their constituents and health of the local community/economy is nothing short of abhorrent.  They chose not to address any concerns publicly, rather they submitted objections without anyone having the chance to engage in constructive debate.'

The Councillors say that they reflecting residents concerns about the use of Turnham Green for large scale-commercial events. Up to 1000 people were expect to attend the silent cinema. In 1998 significant damage was done to Turnham Green during a visit by the Moscow State Circus. After a local resident took the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman strict conditions were laid down for the future commercial use of Turnham Green Common.

Cllr. Samantha Davies (pictured left) said, 'The principle reason for opposing overly large commercial events is that Turnham Green Common is located in a highly mixed commercial and residential area. The Green is surrounded by residential accommodation from free-standing, individual houses to an array of Victorian and Edwardian Mansion blocks. Any noise emanating from such large commercial events could therefore be a great nuisance to local residents. In replying to the application initially made to the Council, I also felt that there was no necessity for John Laing or anyone else to attempt to sell alcohol on Turnham Green, which was part of the initial application. As everyone knows, there are plenty of public houses adjacent to the Green. '

She pointed out that regardless of the film showings being silent the event itself would create a significant degree of noise.

She added, 'If people wish to see commercial films, they may do so at the Odeon cinemas in Hammersmith and Richmond and, if they wish to see reparatory cinema, they may do so at both the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and at the Waterman's Arts Centre in Brentford. In addition, you may not be aware that a new cinema complex is proposed for the Chiswick High Road on the existing premises of Ballet Rambert. Therefore, the worth of having additional open-air commercial screens on Turnham Green is questionable.'

August 17, 2013

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