Friday, 30 October 2009

The talkies

The enterprising Mr Slope opened the Cinema Royale in Chiswick in 1910 and had great success until the ultra modern Art Deco Odeon styled cinemas turned it dark in 1934. The deserted fleapit served briefly as a parachute factory in the 40s and then fell into further disrepair until the 1970s when Martin Hanness and some other antique dealers took it over to ply their trade. Today Martin runs The Old Cinema as a giant shop of antiques, organised by department according to theme and era. I asked him about old stuff, upcycling and the business of upcycling old stuff...

What does your work as buyer for this unusual enterprise entail? There are about 15 dealers who help me supply The Old Cinema with the variety of stock now expected by our customers who include professional stylists looking for the next big thing and young locals in search of bargains. I travel around the UK buying at trade fairs and warehouses plus some regular haunts in Europe but my big love for the last few years has been buying 50s Americana and vintage industrial pieces from the American rustbelt.

Who are some of your influences from the world of design and elsewhere? William Morris was my first hero but currently I am very interested in the mid-century Cotswolds furniture maker Gordon Russell and E Gomme Ltd which became G-Plan. However my real passion is for the lost and found objects, things which have been ignored but deserve appreciation. Faded old advertising signs, factory trolleys, old school lockers and printers drawers full of old type faces. The greatest inspiration for me to keep searching is Sir Peter Blake, whose work with ephemera, found objects and popular culture I think is of huge importance to us all.

What’s the weirdest object that has been sold at The Old Cinema? The most bizarre was a stuffed lion in a huge glass case, which we wheeled down Chiswick High Road one Summer’s afternoon from an auction house in town.

What do you consider to be your best ever find? Oh! That’s easy - my wife! She’s had to put up with broken clocks on the kitchen table, 50’s ball gowns soaking in the bath, rusty balconies in the garden and much worse over the years. Fortunately she makes just as much mess with her pottery making.

What’s your favourite piece in your home? We don’t really go for grand pieces at home so our favourite piece of furniture is an old Victorian chesterfield I bought with Mary in a barn somewhere in Wales 30 years ago. It’s curved and fits perfectly into a bay window, we had it completely restored and upholstered and have watched it slowly sag under the weight of jumping children and hairy dogs. Good furniture for good memories! 

What’s your current bestseller or something in the shop that you’re really excited about? At the moment I’m interested in early twentieth century American industrial design.  I love picking through the derelict objects in abandoned factories.  Americans, like the Victorians before them, designed and manufactured to a very high standard, so with a little love and know-how we have rescued some amazing pieces which should be around forever now.

Some of the pieces in the shop are upcycled, meaning they incorporate objects or materials originally conceived for one purpose now being used for another. Why is this kind of practice interesting and important right now? We’ve had a lot of interest in this idea. Antiques are green by nature but upcycling objects is ecological and exciting as we think of new uses for old stuff. Typewriter keys for cufflinks, inverted water tanks for tables, old flags for upholstery  - it’s just the start of something very big that anyone can get involved in. 

Special Christmas event!

The Old Cinema will host the spoof filming of a pilot TV game show featuring Quizmaster Eben Scruise and plucky contestants Mr and Mrs Cratchit. Be part of the studio audience as the penniless couple value, auction and bid their way to a dramatic and heart-wrenching finale. Drinks and canap├ęs reception at 7pm, show commences at 7:30pm, late night shopping with special 15% discount until 9:30pm. Tickets are free but limited at; see for more information.

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