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Metro 'newspaper' 24/01/06
Artforum eat your heart out

The Bata-ville audience - one nation under a groove

Happy Birthday to Me.
On the eve from this most unwelcome event in late January I had the pleasure of attending a Bata-ville screening at Cornerhouse in Manchester, the first in a series of experimental cinema programming and hosted by exhibitions curator Kathy Rae Huffman, who I have known for many years since she was one of Nina & me's earliest supporters.
The Q & A after the screening was with what I now fondly regard as the typical Bata-ville audience - It includes a slightly rowdy group of pensioners (sounds familiar to those who have seen the film?!) who one speculates may have themselves worked for Bata; a few Czechs, usually on the front row; some earnest architectural / film theoretician-types who are silently moved; some people who have bought Bata shoes on holiday and loved them; and some British Czech-ophiles who can't help murmuring appreciatively at each new sight we visit.
Their questions ranged from 'Can you PLEASE speak a bit louder?' to 'Can I use your film to help me teach English to Czechs' (answer - delighted, of course) to "Just who really were the 'others'?" to "Hmm, I see you didn't feature the significant Le Corbusier house in Zlin.."
For the first time I was at a screening without a coach traveller from the Bata-ville bus to pipe up alongside me, but it was great to be in a lively discussion group that had to be actually brought to a reluctant close by Kathy (due to next screening) instead of that occasional agonising chasm after the 'So, can I take any questions from the floor for Karen?" that can happen.
Oh, and in the same week that we get a review in the NY Arts Magazine (see, the gravitas is offset with a lightweight interview in what my journo brother wouldn't deign to call a newspaper', the Metro (see opposite!).

Screen grab of LOVEFiLM listing ...
With me in the Chatsum side bar!

Life on the web ... Chatsum & LOVEFiLM

Sometimes I love life on the web ... we heard today that 100 people have already queued Bata-ville on LOVEFiLM, which considering we're currently the directors and the distributors is pretty exciting on lots of fronts! Not least as it proves there's a market out there for documentaries which might not necessarily fit a regular TV/art or film mould ... and now it seems you can reach that audience, without a distributor or TV slot.

Meanwhile (in between fashioning some watercolours for the soon to follow additions to our Sometime Later site also launched on the BBC site today) I've spent the afternoon chatting to other Beta testers for Chatsum and brilliant new addition to the web world and the internet baby of one of my students on the RCA Interaction Design course.

George's Chatsum sidebar allows you to talk to other people who are currently looking at the same site or page as you on the web. The Beta version went live today and sidebars across the Firefox web have been busier than the RCA art bar on a Thursday night!

Sadly anyone interested is too late to joint the first round of Beta sign ups (they have been inundated with people) but keep an eye on the site and you might be able to join in with the next version.

Entrance to the foot tunnel at Greenwich


I attended two back-to-back screenings of Bata-ville this weekend (Friday and Saturday evening) which couldn't have been more different ...

Many thanks to Jo Blair of City Screen for programming the film in their super relaxed basement cinema space in Greenwich Picture House on Saturday night. The screening room may only have 32 seats but they are the biggest I've ever seen! They recline back and have slots for drinks etc. It's always a boost to see you have a full house and they're squeezing in extra chairs at the sides ...

Sadly not so at the RCA, students there are so over stimulated (it seems) that you can only get about 25% of the ones you actually teach to attend a screening. Depressing though this was, it did remind me that Karen once confessed to missing a Ridley Scott lecture whilst studying there as she was indeed 'too busy'!

Anyway the Q&A after Saturday's screening couldn't have been more lively, and it was fascinating to see the type of audience that the film drew at a regular cinema (rather than a gallery). Some, I would say, were docs. fans, and many others had Bata connections, but I certainly didn't get the feeling that any were from a more regular 'art' audience ...

Inside the tunnel

Foot Tunnel

... So the Saturday night screening would have been exciting anyway but it was made even more so by a strangely apt journey there.

I know this is probably strictly off-topic but we cycled to Greenwich from Hackney and it was such a strange journey I can't resist posting about it. We left Hackney along the canal to Limehouse which is both quite beautiful and scary at night, and really feels as if you are passing through a part of London that has changed very little in years.

At Limehouse we came up off the path and down into the Isle of Dogs where we headed for the 'Thames-side path'. Suddenly it felt as if we were in a different world and in a strange kind of way cycling through one of the 'themes' of the film. The river's edge at the Isle of Dogs must be one of the most intensely regenerated fringes of London and of course is directly linked to East Tilbury via the Thames Gateway.

As I cycled past rows of matching designer apartments I wondered again what this wave of regeneration will look like by the time it reaches East Tilbury. As Tim commented, at this end of the river it's now the land of the large-plasma-screen-identical-interior-design and no curtains!

We finished off this surreal journey with the Greenwich foot tunnel ...

"The Greenwich Foot Tunnel runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approx 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs. It was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and was opened on 4 August 1902 at a cost of £127,000. The tunnel is lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles. The circular entrance buildings are similar both sides of the river and contain a lift and a long spiral flight of stairs. It is open 24 hours a day, although the lifts do not always run the full time."

The (actually) broken lifts felt rather un-regenerated as I lugged my bike up & down the 98 steps, but once inside you could easily imagine yourself time travelling once again back to London of the early 1900's.

Bata-ville film still

Three screenings in one week!

For anyone in London still wanting to see Bata-ville on the big screen you have three chances this week!

Greenwich Picture House London
Tuesday the 10th of January 2006 at 19.00
Saturday 14th of January 2006 at 20.00
(Followed by a Q&A with director Nina Pope)

Royal College of Art Lecture Theatre 1, London
Friday 13th of January 2006 at 6.30 pm
(followed by Q&A with Nina Pope, chaired by Brendan Walker)
This free screening is open to non-students but must be booked with

Happy New Year

This half of somewhere can't recommend a 2006 visit to Holy Island highly enough... Just sending this from the car as we wait to cross the causeway back to the main land, at the end of New Years day. I hope this year will bring more travel for somewhere ...