Threat to The Cinema Museum, Kennington

To some of us in the South West, that big city called London can (at times) feel a long way away. But whenever we venture into the big smoke which is the capital, either for a film festival, film restoration premiere, book launch or even a for rather special or unique silent film screening there is always one place we always try and drop into. That place, very much our second home, would be The Cinema Museum in Kennington.

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The Cinema Museum is the home for The Kennington Bioscope, an important  gathering point for silent film enthusiasts in the London area. The Kennington Bioscope, in fact, was the inspiration for our new monthly silent film events at the Cube Cinema, Bristol. The location is also a regular spot for all film fans in general however as other regular screenings span the entire history of cinema in general, especially British cinema.

But The Cinema Museum is more than just a meeting spot. Within its walls is an incredible film and cinema memorabilia collection that very much blows our minds every time we step through its doors. If you wanted anything in relation to film history or even cinema-going within the United Kingdom, then the Cinema Museum is the place to go. Old usher uniforms, various cinema seats, projectors of every size and gauge, original cinema certificate signs, original cinema doors  and even a collection of popcorn cartons can be found within the museum’s exhibitions and storage areas. It’s an Aladdin’s cave for all cinephiles!

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The Museum is also the location for The Ronald Grant Film Archive; an important resource for film researchers, journalists, publishers as well as broadcasters alike who approach the archive’s team to supply them with a wide range of classic film photographs and posters which cover the entire history of film production, not only in this country but in the world. The museum also houses a huge amount of actual film; many titles which have contributed to national film projects such as the celebrated Mitchell and Kenyon retrospectives as well as the BFI’s recent Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow DVD release; God only knows what other treasures lurk within the vaults of the Cinema Museum waiting to be found.

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And now, all of this and much more can be lost within a matter of months. Below we have posted the public announcements by the Cinema Museum team over the past few days to give you a sense of the threat that the museum has come under. We will keep this page updated when we hear of new developments.

For now however! We encourage everyone to sign this newly established petition to support the Cinema Museum and to spread the word about this wonderful gem which is not only a key location for all film buffs in London; but an important institution for the history of cinema within this country.

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Potential closure of The Cinema Museum (TCM) the country’s leading museum dedicated to Cinema: Update No. 2 17th October 2017 – answering your questions

What is happening at the moment?
South London & Maudsley NHS Hospital Trust (SLaM) have, despite promising to sell us The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards – and recently the entire site – decided to place the whole site on the open market for a speedy, post Christmas, unconditional, cash sale. The site went onto the market on the 22nd of Sept 2017. This is a huge threat to the future of The Cinema Museum (TCM). We are told the process is to be: viewings through October; tenders in from potential purchasers in November; exchange during December; completion closely thereafter. Potential purchasers are invited to bid for the whole site, which includes The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards and Woodlands Nursing Home. Potential purchasers are property developers, so most will be looking to ‘manage out’ TCM by hiking up the rent or appealing against the planning conditions. The Minister at the DCMS, our MP, Kate Hoey and the Leader of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck have written to the Chair and/or the CEO of SLaM to ask them to consider the wider cultural, social and wellbeing value of TCM and reconsider their position.

What have The Cinema Museum done in response?
We have written to each of the individual trustees of the SLaM board asking them to reconsider their position and sell to us at Red Book Valuation as previously promised. They have refused to do so.

We have asked SLaM to word their tender bid to say that any bidder would need to explain how they intended dealing with The Cinema Museum & Male Receiving Wards – with a view to securing the long-term sustainability of the Museum. SLaM have refused to do so.

We have asked SLaM to refund the monies that TCM has spent over the years in delivering on SLaM demands around the negotiation of their changing purchase options. SLaM have refused to do so.

We have written to Members, both at the House of Commons and the House of Lords alerting them to the issues that TCM faces and asking them to intervene – we await responses.

We have met with and have written to The Mayors Office alerting them to the issues that TCM faces and asking them to intervene – we await responses.

We have written to the Museum of London (MOL) asking them to intervene. MOL are paid by the Government to support small independent museums in London – they are currently drafting a public letter of support.

We have met with and written to the Arts Council alerting them to the issues that TCM faces and asking them to intervene.

We are in the process of collecting signatures from local charities and organisations that we support to ensure that SLaM, potential purchasers and decision-makers understand that it is not just TCM who believe that they have considerable cultural, social and wellbeing value.

We have been in on-going dialogue for the past decade with Lambeth Council and Lambeth Councillors alerting them to the potential threat to TCM (if SLaM puts our home on the open market) asking them to intervene.

We have met with local Ward councillors; our Assembly Member, Southwark’s CEO Office (our neighbouring) Council; our MP and the Leader of Lambeth Council. They are all well aware of the position and although constrained in some regards, they all say they are 100% behind TCM, politically and from a planning perspective, and will look at ways that they can help us remain sustainable at The Masters House & Male Receiving Ward. Senior officials from Southwark Council have been equally supportive and although they are not our council, they are being very innovative and active in their efforts to support us.

We have applied to Lambeth Council to register The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards as ‘Community Assets’ (information on Community Assets can be found on Lambeth Council website). We have been informed today that we have been successful in that application – this places an asset lock on The Masters House and the Lodge for 6 months.

We have put together an information pack for potential purchasers who come to view The Masters House and Male Receiving Wards, that welcomes them and encourages them in their plans to develop the Woodlands site. However, we also point out to them the history behind TCM trying to secure its future – and our discussions and negotiations with SLaM. We have also made them aware of our strong intent to remain, as owners of The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards. We also point out to them the omissions in Savills marketing material – where Savills are positioning the matter of the Masters House & Male Receiving Wards (and the planning condition that it MUST be used as a Cinema Museum) as a non-issue, because our lease expires in March 2018 (implying that all any developer needs to do to gain vacant possession is to refuse to grant us a new lease in March 2018 – or just rentalise us out.

We have formalised a development partnership with a local Housing Association and are considering putting in a formal bid with them for the purchase of the entire site (providing terms can be agreed). This offer is designed to: return a Red Book Valuation or above to South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust; deliver the desired number of affordable houses required by Lambeth Council; secure TCM’s ownership of The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards.

We have also offered to meet (and are meeting) with any developers who intend purchasing the site to discuss with them how we might support their bid – providing it secures the ownership of The Masters House & Male Receiving Wards for TCM.

We have created an information pack for the press and the media which will be circulated this week.

What reassurances can you give us?
We can’t give any cast iron promises. However, we can reassure you that we have taken professional and legal advice throughout the past 10 years of negotiations with SLaM; we have taken all the necessary steps to secure the future of the Museum; the trustees are committed to fighting for the future of the museum right to the final conclusion of this crisis – and we remain entirely confident that we will prevail.

What can we do to help?
We are preparing a support pack which we will get to you this week to give you options about how you support the Museum through this difficult period.

Potential closure of The Cinema Museum (TCM) the country’s leading museum dedicated to Cinema: (1st October 2017)

For over 19 years The Cinema Museum has been located in the old Lambeth Workhouse, Kennington, former home to Charlie Chaplin, his brother and mother. Our landlords over that time have been South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. We have always paid market rent and frequently deliver therapy projects and host events for the hospital free of charge. In the 33 years since the Museum’s creation it has reached out to hundreds of thousands of the elderly and disabled, LGBT+ people and those with nowhere to go and no social network. We run a wide-range of film, cinema and wellbeing events on a daily basis to a community of both young and old – including crucial mental health services for those managing/recovering from mental health issues. We also run a range of wellbeing services and ensure older people who are cut off from society have a place to go, meet others and reminisce through film. This improves mental health and provides the social connectivity so vital in reducing demand on NHS services. Our wellbeing business plan and services stand as an example of how mainstream arts and health can work together to improve community wellbeing, in a way the NHS are unable to. We fund this work through commercial hires – so our wellbeing work is delivered at no cost to the taxpayer. Sadly our wellbeing services are likely to disappear from Lambeth and Southwark in 2018.

We also provide essential training and resources to universities/students studying film, cinema, media and communications via our unprecedented archive of material and our range of activity-based programmes. We house over one million movie stills, exceedingly rare cinema memorabilia and thousands of cinema and film magazines dating from the 1900s to date. The collections owners want to gift a substantial proportion of their collections to the Nation via the charitable vehicle of The Cinema Museum – once their permanent home is secured. Sadly, it seems that these services and the opportunity for this gift will also be lost forever.

Over the past 10 years South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust promised to let the Museum charity purchase its home, to secure its future. It was agreed that once the hospital was ready to sell, this would be done via the Red Book Valuation process to ensure transparency/good value for the taxpayer. The Museum paid for Red Book Valuations, found partners, secured funding and as agreed awaited the hospitals own valuation for both sides agents to negotiate. However, the hospital changed its mind at the last minute – categorically refusing to sell to us – preferring to sell our home on the open market with a view to a fast sale, before Xmas 2017 without planning permission. This leaves us facing imminent closure within months, indeed South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust say they will make our lease expiry (March 2018) a feature of their marketing materiel.

South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust now claim they never even had any conversations about selling directly to us and their directors have been contacting influential politicians privately, implying that the trustees of the Museum are somehow deluded. This claim is entirely untrue. Indeed, we have files of clear documented evidence of the position – but their claims are nevertheless very damaging for our small charity and we have written to the trustees of South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust asking them to desist.

The Cinema Museum truly is a one-off and will be missed when it is gone, a view shared by our local MPs, Leader of Lambeth Council, London Assembly members and a host of musician/actor/ambassadors including Bastille, Glenda Jackson, Sylvia Syms, Barbara Windsor and Emma Thompson.

We completely understand the needs of the public purse, and of this Hospital Trust in particular, to maximise their return on land disposal. It was for that reason we have always offered to purchase the land at a mutually agreed Red Book Value, at a time convenient South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust, over the 10 years.

We want to continue our work in our Chaplin-related historic building, with collections that have historic significance to the world of film, cinema and the arts. We are talking to Lambeth Council, The Mayors Office and Government departments to explore how this impending disaster might be averted. Of course, had South London & Maudsley Hospital Trust told us a decade ago that they had no intention of selling to us, we would have entered into different arrangements with them; we would be in a new home now with an established Museum and range of wellbeing programmes – and the Nation would own another fabulous and unique international collection. The NHS and its staff need and deserve our support – but it does not have to involve sacrificing our community assets, our cultural heritage and the shape of our future social care. We are still hopeful that a solution can be found that allows us all to continue our work and the delivery of social benefit.

If you think you can help in any way, or have any questions or would just like to be kept updated then please contact martin@cinemamuseum.org.uk

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