.A project documenting London’s theatres and picture houses during the Covid19 lockdown. Below is a selection from more than 70 theatres and 30 cinemas.
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Contact info and profile are below.
About this project
I’m a media artist who’s dabbled in many areas – a long time ago I invented projection mapping. My big thing is light.
Mid March 2020 and I was finishing a major show at the OXO Tower, and feeling nervous about what may lie ahead. The news told us a plague was coming – a real full-bloodied plague!
My show finished, the day after I got Covid symptoms, and two days later was the lockdown.
A horrible month later I felt wobbly, but fit enough to get on a bike. I cycled into central London.
Standing virtually alone on Waterloo Bridge with no traffic on the road, no boats on the river and no planes above was… breathtaking. The solitude was at once bizarre, unsettling, and gorgeously beautiful.
From the bridge I could see the National Theatre. I had worked there – an important chunk of my life. It now sat empty, deserted, forlorn.
Zig-zagging down an empty Strand I revelled in the quiet and the safety of empty roads. There were a couple of taxis and a security guard out for a smoke, while completely empty buses patrolled the streets. Most of the homeless had been temporarily packed away, though as always a few poor souls had slipped through the net. The police kept an eye on it all.
Soho was vacant. It was like someone had pulled the plug during the night, with everyone cosily tucked up in bed, and the following morning the sun rose on this surreal frozen landscape.
Now hundreds of lanterns continued to celebrate the Chinese new year (and would keep doing so for months). Cinemas promoted A Silent Place II and Parasite as if they were set-dressing from a disaster movie offering some sly commentary, while theatres boldly advertised shows put to bed weeks before. I had sat in the dark in most of these venues swept away by their distractions, and had worked in many of them too. A show, a theatre, an audience are living things in intimate collusion. Together they breath life. The sum of the parts etc. The notion occured to me that I had stepped into some outlandish and fantastically huge wake, and was there paying my respects to these glorious but sad remains. Everybody would get to do this, one by one. Today it was my turn.
The streets would of course fill with people again. Normality would one day return. But would all these shows? It was obvious some wouldn’t. Would even the theatres themselves survive..? Some had already been on a financial knife edge.
I needed to return and document this. Lone photographers were taking their post-apocalypse snaps, but was anyone recording the theatres and cinemas?
Back home I made a list. Using Google Earth I got the best time to catch the light, and mapped out several day-long routes hopping from one venue to the next. So: 7.30am The Donmar; 8am The Royal Opera House; 8.30am Trafalgar Studios; and so on. This was going to take me a while – I had more than a hundred to cover!
Over the next few weeks I would spend a day cycling across town taking photos, followed by several days of post-Covid exhaustion (I’m in that scary ‘long haul’ category).
It was certainly a mixed bag. Some of the venues were impossible to get to (like the Barbican Theatre buried inside the Barbican Centre), some were just plain dull, but many were visually stunning, especially the huge Victorian edifices like Her Majesty’s Theatre on The Haymarket. Doing the ‘post’ on these has been a real pleasure.
I’ll be updating this.
Right now I’m scouting opportunities for publication.
A magazine feature would be ideal.
Single prints are available.
Get in touch.
p.s. Please don’t share this page on social media. Cheers!