Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Vicar's Oak

If it wasn't for this particular ancient oak, the Triangle might never have come into being, and even worse than that, this blog would not exist! The almost mythical Vicar's Oak, stood somewhere near the junction of Church Road, Westow Hill, Anerley Hill, and Crystal Palace Parade, and was used for centuries as a boundary marker between four parishes including Lambeth and Camberwell. Now of course it is where four of Greater London's Boroughs meet: Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon and Bromley.
The oak could so easily have been forgotten, buried under layers of tarmac and traffic lights, until a local charitable organisation, Invisible Palace, decided it deserved to be marked in some way. The location, at the southwest corner of Crystal Palace Park, was chosen for a design by garden designer, Lou Yates, who also sought to improve the poor current layout where the most convenient route from traffic island to park gates involved trampling over a municipal flower bed. This 'desire' line was facilitated in the design for Vicar's Oak path, by replacing the single bed with 2 separate ones either side of an oak trunk from a deceased tree felled from a nearby remnant of the Great North Wood, which once covered this part of South London. 
Set into the ground around the oak, are decorated ceramic letters announcing, "Near this site, stood the Vicar's Oak boundary tree". The letters were made by volunteers, under the guidance of Beth Mander at the Paxton Centre, and indeed, once the groundworks were done, all the planting was also carried out by local volunteers.
And so, two weeks ago, the path and garden were formally opened by Bromley's Deputy Mayor, Councillor David Cartwright, accompanied by a talented local children's steel band, Panash.
Congratulations to all who were involved in this wonderful community scheme, may the Great North Wood, and in particular, the Vicar's Oak, live on in local folklore.

The Panash Steelband

Speech given by Julia Honess who was one of the project's co-ordinators
Deputy Mayor of Bromley, Councillor David Cartright

Deputy Mayor doing the honours

The garden's designer, Lou Yates

From left to right: Jules Hussey, Trustee of Invisible Palace, Lou Yates, garden designer, Julia Honess & Sue Giovanni, project co-ordinators

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Cinema, 25 Church Road

The campaign to return a cinema to Crystal Palace is even older than this blog, having been started by a group of optimistic locals back in 2009, when the former Rialto building on Church Road which had been a bingo hall since the 60s, was sold to Kingsway International Christian Centre. It seemed like an opportunity had been lost, and rather than an amenity for local people, the church would be ferrying in its congregation from outside the area. When the church applied to Bromley Council to change the use of the building from cinema/bingo (D2) to a place of worship (D1), the persistence of the campaign team helped to prevent this from happening. The church clung on to the building for another couple of years, using it as a cultural events venue, which didn't really suit their requirements. They finally put the building up for sale earlier this year, and there was much concern that developers, or other non cinema organisations might take an interest. But then it was announced, to much local excitement that the winning bidder was established cinema group, Everyman. An opening date of some time in November has been pencilled in, although in the meantime there is much work to be done. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to access the building prior to works beginning, to record the current condition of the building, which was designed in 1928 by the renowned cinema Architect, George Coles. The existing auditorium is impressively vast, with a circle, or balcony level over the main space. However, a single screen cinema is not financially viable these days, so the building's single volume will be split into four screens, plus a bar. It was therefore important to get a complete record of the place now, as it will look very different in a few months time. I assume some of the elaborate decoration will be retained, but I've not seen the detailed proposals other than the layout plans. I hope to be back once the doors have opened in November, to take pics of the finished project. Meanwhile, many congratulations to all those involved in the campaign over the years. Thank you for helping make this happen. Can't wait for premiere night!

The foyer which will include a bar

The trap door in the stage actually descends to a baptismal pool installed by previous owners.

The projection room
View from the projection room
The huge brick exterior of the auditorium was once hidden behind a small row of shops to the right of the entrance foyer. It would be nice to see something along those lines rebuilt.