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.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Joanna's - 40th Anniversary - 1978-2018

Success in the restaurant industry is notoriously difficult to achieve. New restaurants are constantly opening, but they close down with alarming regularity too. What's flavour of the month one minute, can bite the dust the next. The recent demise of Salt & Pickle, locally, is but one sad example. So when a restaurant manages to survive for 40 years, it is a rare achievement, and one to be celebrated. And that's exactly what Joanna's is doing for the next month, bringing back lots of retro foodie favourites, including prawn cocktail, chilli con carne, and banoffee pancakes.
Congratulations to Will Ellner and his wonderful team on the continuing success of this local institution. Here's to the next 40 years!

I've been photographing the food and interiors at Joanna's for several years now, and here is a selection of the most recent shots which will shortly be appearing on their new look website.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Coconut Trading

Last month, Perry Ukueku could scarcely have been further away from the Triangle. He was on a buying trip in Southeast Asia, sourcing decorative treasures for his long established shop, Coconut Trading. You may have noticed that the shop has also recently gone on a little trip itself, but not far, just to new premises which opened last year directly opposite the old shop on Church Road. He started trading there way back in 2000, long preceding most of the midcentury/vintage shops along the street, supplying a wide range of decorative items from Southeast Asia and Africa, whose timeless appeal has clearly endured.
Buddhas and beads, carvings and lighting, furnishings and fabric, there's a wealth of choice. It was on a similar far flung trip nearly 20 years ago that the idea for the shop first came about.
In a previous incarnation, Perry had trained as a psychotherapist. He was involved with a charity, managing a team of therapists, working with local authorities. As is typical of any career path, the more he was promoted, the less time he spent doing what he trained to do. Growing increasingly frustrated, he eventually packed it all in and went travelling around the world. En route he picked up so many items to take home, he ended up with a container load, and a plan to open a shop. On returning he knew that any shop would have to be close by. His previous job had involved a commute from West Norwood to Hampstead, which he was determined to avoid. In those days, Crystal Palace, which was one of Perry's preferred locations, had its own town centre manager, who let him know about the unit on Church Road which was to become his premises for the next 17 years. By his own admission, he went into retail quite naively, but he was clear that he wanted to source things directly, rather than buying from UK wholesalers, so as to ensure he wasn't just  stocking the same old things as every other shop. It also enables him to develop relationships with the artisans and cooperatives he buys from. As far as possible, items are made from natural, and sustainable materials. A certain amount of patience is required however, as it takes on average 3 months to get his shipment back to Crystal Palace.
Back on the Triangle, it is no surprise to discover that among Perry's favourite places to eat out, are restaurants drawing on the same parts of the world as his stock: Urban Orient, Yak & Yeti, and Thai Crystal. Although his biggest weakness is for the chocolates at Blowing Dandelion.
So if you fancy a trip to somewhere exotic, but can only fit in 20 minutes on a damp Thursday morning, pay a visit to No.68 Church Road, it feels a world away from SE19.

A little shrine resides in the corner behind the counter.

Downstairs you will find larger pieces of furniture and lighting, both traditional and contemporary, set around a magnificent bejewelled recline buddha.

68 Church Road
020 8771 0700