To say history is all around us somehow invokes ideas of the past; things which are done with. But lives, events and places are not quite finished so long as memories and interest interplay and seeking out these histories is one of the things that gives me pleasure.
I glory in the magnificent glass achievements of today, resplendent in their LED rainbows but I find there’s still plenty room for the little things, the fragments of journeys that have brought us to where we are now and still point us to wherever we will go, whether or not we are aware of it. Things that live on long after their perceived purpose has been concluded, overlooked and forgotten in plain sight whist the ephemeral present whizzes on by, concerned only with its own trivial immortalities.
Today’s journey off the London paths I have previously beaten through took me to a spot I’m pretty sure I’ve never visited before and, being between two rather exciting places it is a little dull corner that most people seem to want to rush through as fast as possible.
But something caught my eye.
First of all, even a tiny bit of unused space in Central London is worthy of comment but these alcoves quietly minding their own business piqued my interest. Exactly what they are is still unclear though they may, just may, be the last remnants of the C18th houses of Blews Mews, currently the middle section of Orange Street WC2, which runs behind the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, to the south of Leicester Square.
They are an ongoing mystery but they draw my eye to this rather odd construction and the subject of much random guessing on facebook.
Seems like a strange thing to find in such a prestigious location but this is the back and fly tower of the Leicester Square Theatre, built in 1930 as a combined live stage and cinema with a seating capacity of 1760.
Despite high hopes and many grand plans, it never quite hit the big time, and was already a little sad the one time I ventured in to see And Justice For All with Al Pacino, and my mum, as it were. We loved it though, it was large but cosy and we enjoyed the film, as least partially due to unusually comfortable seats, never realising the beautiful 1930’s facade was behind the ugly mid-1970’s hoardings or the lovely gold ceiling that slumbered just feet above the dull fake one.
It finally closed in 2009, with the entire block now being up for redevelopment despite vehement opposition from several conservation societies and English Heritage. A sad loss to the area and I fervently hope the planned glass palace, completely out of keeping with the area, does not go ahead.
In the meantime I count myself lucky to have found this in time as I think the brickwork is rather beautiful and, looking at it, I can still hear the scene shifters hauling the heavy scenery through the scene door, marked by the large white rectangle or casting it high in the sky with the fly mechanisms situated in the tower, whilst Tony Hancock, Galton and Simpson, Gracie Fields and Tommy Cooper play hide and seek in the pub on the corner, 80 years of artists each trying to escape buying their round.
Maybe it’s true? Cinema going just isn’t as exciting as it used to be…