Secret Cinema spin off told: No more shouting in the playground

PUBLISHED: 09:37 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:37 16 January 2013

Secret Cinema actors and cinema fans recreate the Shawshank Redemption at Cardinal Pole school. Photo credit Laura Little

Secret Cinema actors and cinema fans recreate the Shawshank Redemption at Cardinal Pole school. Photo credit Laura Little


»Organisers of a popular cinematic experience who are bringing the film Shawshank Redemption to life in a disused school have been told to stop making noise in its playground if they are to continue operating there.

Secret Cinema turned the former Cardinal Pole Lower School in Victoria Park Road, South Hackney, into a penitentiary to imitate the cult classic film starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

The hugely popular and innovative Secret Cinema role-play concept sees mystery films screened in secret locations by organisers Future Cinema, who charge £45 a head.

More than 13,000 film fans turned up to watch the film before Christmas, without knowing where or what they would be watching.

‘Convicts’ were sentenced at Oak Hampton Court House – or Bethnal Green Library in Bethnal Green Road before being transported by guards in blacked out 1940s prison buses - almost identical to the ones in the film - to the ‘Shawshank State Prison’.

But nearby residents complained to the council that hundreds of people dressed up as prisoners were yelling, chanting, singing and marching up and down the school yard as part of the immersive theatre experience.

A blaring siren also caused disturbance, but was shelved after the first performance.

“The audience arrive in a state of darkness, again part of the Future Shorts experience, it benefits only Future Shorts and their fee-paying customers at an unacceptable cost on every single day of their operation to the local community,” said one resident in a letter.

“Audience members leave the venue late at night, clearly in a state of excitement fuelled by alcohol, loud noises continue to be heard outside the venue until after midnight,” they continued.

The secret project which was granted a temporary event licensing notice for licensing ended on December 2, but the same licensing application asked for a licence lasting until June to continue operating under the guise of Future Cinema.

Darren Reilly, principal licensing enforcement officer, recommended the licence was refused.

“The applicant had an opportunity to demonstrate how they can hold an event without causing disturbance to residents and they failed to do so,” he said.

But the license has been extended under the condition that there is no ‘regulated entertainment’ outside the school building, and access to the premises must now be carried out in silence.

Security staff must supervise as the crowd leaves by the main gates in Victoria Park Road and not from the side streets.

Resident Rupert Fitzhugh is happy with the new conditions.

“We didn’t really think our wish for the event to be refused would be upheld, especially since it is a revenue stream for the council,” he said.

“Someone has to pay for the sumptuous refurbishment of the council offices.”

A council spokesman said they had taken issues raised by residents, the police and council officers into account, as well as amendments made to the application.

“These included the imposition of strict licence conditions in order to minimise disruption to local residents,” he said.

Secret Cinema declined to comment.

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