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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Archive for November 2008

Presenting… the Greenwich Imax!

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So, chugging through the nasty retail park on the peninsula on the way home from a miserable game of football the other night, and what should I see from the bus window? Some men up a crane next to the Greenwich Odeon (nee Filmworks). Another change of moniker? Nope. They were attaching a new word to the sign. “IMAX”.

Yup, the Odeon in Greenwich has now got an Imax screen. I wonder what we’ve done to deserve that honour? Well, it’s probably more proof of the big competition for bums on cinema seats around here. The economy’s shrinking, everything’s gloomy, but it’s boomtime if you want to see a (Hollywood) movie in SE10.

It wasn’t always this way. Greenwich Council had to help fund the original Greenwich Cinema when it opened in the late 1980s (“built by this council for your enjoyment”, a voiceover trilled before every film, accompanied by an obselete council logo). The 1970s and 1980s saw the closure of cinemas in Blackheath (the Roxy, on Old Dover Road), Woolwich (the ABC), Lewisham and Deptford. The multiplex revolution had yet to hit town, and old stagers like the Woolwich and Well Hall Coronets staggered on, along with ABCs in Catford and Sidcup.

But the 1990s saw those old screens wiped out as multiplexes marched in at Surrey Quays and Bexleyheath (since Catford’s demise, Lewisham borough has no cinemas, although there’s a few just beyond its boundaries). And finally, the multiplex came to Greenwich with the Filmworks (now Odeon) in 2001. Big, glitzy, and spotless, it was a world away from the smelly old Woolwich Coronet. Greenwich Cinema, by now looking tatty, shut its doors in 2002 when its owners went under, re-emerging as the Picturehouse three years later.

I heard somewhere that the Odeon was one of, if not, the busiest cinemas in the country. I’ve not been there for a few years, because I can’t think of anywhere worse to spend an evening than a retail park, but its easy to see why it does such a good trade – huge car park and not much competition for miles around. Until last year, its nearest competition south of the river was in awkward Surrey Quays or distant Bexleyheath.

When the Dome became the O2 last year, up stepped some competition for the all-conquering Odeon. The Vue‘s Screen 11 is the biggest in the country – I saw Quantum of Solace on it last month and it wasn’t bad at all, although the cinema’s fiddly to find your way around.

So we have two huge chains on our doorstep, and one smaller one down the road. Are we spoilt for choice? Not really. Both the big chains are showing pretty much identical fare (although you can see Mamma Mia! again at the Odeon and the Vue is still showing Burn After Reading, but only late at night). They’re both even showing Bollywood movie Dostana. Is the Picturehouse offering that much different? It’s the only place showing Waltz With Bashir consistently, and there’s patchy screenings of Easy Virtue and The Baader-Meinhof Complex, but… it’s tough justifying £11 for Bond, Changeling and Body of Lies when you can see them up the road for cheaper.

How do the cinemas fight, then? On technology and ambience. The Vue has its great mega-screen, the Odeon now has its Imax which might tempt me back inside for a look… and the Picturehouse? It doesn’t have the plebs that attend the other two, I suppose they’d like to say but can’t. I actually prefer the Picturehouse because the staff are good, I like its bar, and it’s much nicer going to the cinema in a town centre rather than a car park or the sterile O2. But then if it’s showing the same films as the other two places… I’ll probably start to vote with my wallet.

At least, however, we’ve got three good cinemas that are actively trying to pull in the crowds. Those of us who remember dismal blind dates at the Sidcup ABC (King Ralph) or smuggling booze into the Woolwich Coronet (some Star Trek film, I think) can at least appreciate how much better things are. Hopefully they’ll survive the tough times ahead – and develop to offer us a bit more choice. Picturehouse bosses, I hope you’re reading…

Written by Darryl

27 November, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Olympics? Greenwich Time unbiased as ever

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A week to the Greenwich Olympics consultation meeting at the Dome, and the official organ of Greenwich Council is as even-handed as ever about it…
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To be fair, this is next to an ad for the event saying experts will be there to “answer questions”, but the copy’s pretty unambiguous. Now, I don’t receive any other local newspaper. It’d be perfectly possibly to go around unaware there was large-scale opposition to the Greenwich Park plans along with some well-founded scepticism. But you won’t read it in Greenwich Time.

Which is a huge problem for London 2012’s organisers. The wild bias shown by Greenwich Council only creates the impression that there’s something to hide. From my conversation with a LOCOG person last week, it seems they’re pretty sincere about listening to people’s concerns about the site. I hope I’m right, and I hope they’re held to every last one of their promises. But with friends like the council – elected to represent the people, and not Sebastian Coe – they don’t need enemies.

Filthy Charlton: An unhelpful conspiracy theory

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My neighbouring blogger Charlton Average was tickled to discover his corner of the world featured on BBC1 spy drama Spooks the other night – featuring the unsightly parade of overspilling, uncollected bins that he spent much of 2008 haranguing the useless chumps at Greenwich Council about. Go and see, he’s got pictures and everything.

Anyway, this got me thinking… the council’s (rightly) lauded for the work its film unit does in bringng this area to the big and small screen. Maybe the lack of decent bin collection was deliberate? “Hello! I’m from the BBC. Do you have anywhere nasty and unkempt where we can film our top-rated crime drama?” “Well, now you mention it…”

Written by Darryl

27 November, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Notting Hill congestion charge: A solution

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So, “green” Boris has canned the western bit of the congestion charge zone.

While we prepare to choke/ rev up our Chelsea tractors (delete as applicable), this comment on Dave Hill’s blog made me chuckle…

If the residents of West London want to be able to drive freely around their area and allow the rest of the same privilege well good for them. In return can the rest of us who live elsewhere have a referendum on them driving their filthy tractors in our areas for free. Let’s charge them for driving outside of their zone. Just becasue they want to be able to drive around their area it doesn’t mean I want them driving around mine. I say let them have no C-Charge in their area and let’s charge them to leave it. And leave it they do, on their way out of London to their weekend cottages.

Incidentally, guff about “manifesto commitments” aside, I wonder how much the opening of the Westfield London mega-mall just outside the zone, and the threat it poses to businesses around that way, had to do with the decision?

Written by Darryl

27 November, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Get some cash for Maryon Park

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It hit fame in the cult 60s film Blow-Up, but now Charlton’s Maryon Park is a looking a bit tatty around the edges. But now, like a blond avenger, Boris Johnson, no less, is offering some cash to help do it up. And hopefully the council will accept the cash and make it a bit nicer, yes?

So go to the Help A London Park site, and vote for it. Now. Please? Thank you.

(Other parks which could get cash include Avery Hill Park in Eltham, Deptford Park, Camberwell Green, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Coram’s Fields and Victoria Park.)

Written by Darryl

25 November, 2008 at 5:23 pm

My trip to the Olympics. Well, the Olympics stand…

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So I popped along to the Olympics consultation in Greenwich Park, and was fairly reassured by what I heard. The main thrust of what the 2012 organisers want to do, as I saw it…

- A part of the park (the flat area at the foot of the hill) will be closed for several months for construction of a 20,000-capacity stadium. But the whole park will have to be closed from two weeks before the Olympics for it to be converted into the cross-country course.

- No trees will be cut down, they say, but some low-hanging branches will have to be cut down.

- The current course involves a route through the flower garden, because the duck pond is proposed as a water feature. This may be changed, because people are worried about the flower garden, with the boating lake replacing it as a water feature instead.

So, here’s what I reckon this all comes down to. Is losing Greenwich Park for six weeks or so a price worth paying for us to be hosting a major Olympic event? And if we decide it is, then the organisers must be held to their every word about restoring the park to its previous glory.

Like I said before, this debate isn’t helped by the extreme viewpoints involved – the Evening Standard misery corps on one side, Greenwich Council on the other. LOCOG had a press day on Friday and showed the local freesheets around, but they’ll need to get their act together if they’re to overcome a tide of local scepticism.

And it dawned on me earlier that councillors from all three main parties represent wards which adjoin or include Greenwich Park (Tories and Labour in Blackheath Westcombe, Labour in Greenwich West and Peninsula, and Lib Dems in Lewisham’s Blackheath ward). I don’t think we’ve heard a peep out of them, which is sad.

Brockley Central has a good post on this, Save Greenwich Park is unimpressed.

Written by Darryl

24 November, 2008 at 1:12 am

Greenwich Park Olympics – make yourself heard

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I’m on the fence about the plans for Greenwich Park to be an Olympic venue – I’m proud to see the old girl selected, but very worried about some of the rumours I’ve heard about the damage it may cause and lengthy closures of all or part of the park.

Unfortunately, the lack of decent independent local media in Greenwich, and the bad joke that is London’s regional media means it’s hard to know what the truth is.

On one side, the Evening sub-Standard, forever looking for scare stories about the tiniest thing. On the other, the bullshit machine that is Greenwich Council, publishing ludicrous stories in its propaganda rag Greenwich Time assuring us that everything will be alright.

I suspect the Stunted won’t be happy unless the Olympics are a disaster, and Greenwich Council would quite happily allow all of the park to be concreted over if it meant their leader got his face on the news. Of course, I exaggerate, but neither party is bringing anything worthwhile to the debate.

It doesn’t help when the BBC’s local news service for London leads its report on a basketball arena that doesn’t even exist yet, either. (South of the river? Where is that again?)

But with a whole one day’s notice comes news that the Olympic organisers will be in the Pavillion Tea Rooms on Friday (tomorrow) and Saturday from 10am-4pm to talk to people and explain what’s happening. I’m not quite sure who they expect to attract during a working day, but that’s “consultation” for you.

Secondly, there’s a public meeting at the Indigo venue inside the Dome/O2 on the evening of Tuesday 4th December to discuss the plans for the Olympic venues in Greenwich borough. If you want to go, you need to register for tickets here.

If you can, go. Like the Greenwich Phantom says – whatever happens, they can’t be allowed to get away with damaging our park.

Written by Darryl

20 November, 2008 at 6:31 pm

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