London is literally swamped in cinema pop-ups this year: check out this website's calendar if you don't believe me. At least four are fighting for the city's park spaces and piazzas on any one week this summer. They often share similar programmes too, so it's entirely possible, should the desire take you and you had a jet pack or some rapid travel means, to see Top Gun three times on one single day across three different London locations (parks, lidos or heaths). It's probably to the benefit of everyone- it means healthy competition and gives more people around the city a chance to find a venue closer to them.
The clue as to how Rooftop Film Club tries to stand out is in the name. One of the more recent additions to their venue roster (which includes the Queen of Hoxton on Curtain Road and Roof East in Stratford) this year has been the roof of Peckham's old industrial building turned arts venue - The Bussey Building. Being near my flat and being interested in the aura of faded glory that the city's old light industrial structures like the Bussey give off, I headed over.
Cost of ticket (includes headphones and blanket) £13. Book here.
The Bussey Building is over 100 years old, and according to the CLF website (the Chronic Love Foundation being the arts organisation that runs the building) only narrowly escaped demolition in the last decade. It now has protection from the authorities, and continues to be run by the CLF as a commercial arts venture, music and cafe space, with links to humanitarian projects. You have to troop up four flights of stairs to get to the rooftop cinema, so you can check the atmospheric old-industrial interior out as you do. Views from the roof are stunning- there are few high buildings in that area that can obscure the view into central London. Bear in mind though that Rooftop Film Club do not cover their venues in rain. There is plenty of time to wander around the roof and chat before the film, and you are free to wander in and out of the building.
Food and drink:
Burgers, beer, ciders and cocktails are the order of the day along with burgers. Prices not excessive. Quicker service can be had if you order during the film, there are queues before that. Tuesdays-Thursdays have happy hour. Check for details.
Seating, screen and audio :
Kudos for the programmers for mixing up the programme a little bit and including Christopher Nolan's neo-noir mind bender Memento! Too often these pop-up cinemas follow the same pattern: Top Gun mixed in with Grease and a touch of The Big Lebowski.
The Rooftop Club use wifi headphones, which means there is no risk of chatter during the film disrupting the film for you, one of the biggest peeves cinema aesthetes might have with these events. Nevertheless the headset I was given was hissy, I had to change it twice. The film screened that night- Christopher Nolan's Memento- was projected onto a fairly large screen that was mounted high enough to be visible to all, but it was only fully visible about 30 mins into the film due to sun glare. Technically the film should've started at 'sundown' but this start time felt a bit premature.
The deck chairs used are comfy - though these chairs mean no drinks holder- and being tilted so far back might not work for some (provides a great vertigo effect if you tilt far back and look directly upwards with no horizon). The weather at time of writing is still not fully settled into summer, and the temperate actually dropped quite a lot during our screening following sundown: blankets were needed (and are provided).
THE FINAL SAY: ✭✭✭☆☆
Obviously £13 will make some balk, but for those curious about 'old world' London its worth a trip to see the interior of one of south London's more characterful buildings from a more industrial time, and for those great unobstructed views of central London. It might make sense to wait as long as possible until booking so you can check the weather in advance, or else you'll risk having to fall back on ponchos -a flaw I don't think Rooftop should really ignore (can't they invest in a giant canvas?) I've tried watching films in the rain, it doesn't work.