A Cinema For Acton

Elevator pitch:

An underdog team of eight volunteers, determined to bring back a bit of cultural life to an unfashionable corner of West London, band together to rescue a crumbling Victorian library from developers and - against all the odds (including a pandemic) - turn it into a bright and buzzing independent cinema.


Scene 1.
Exterior. Daytime.
Fade up on an old redbrick building. It was probably once a beautiful gothic landmark. Now buses, cars and lorries rumble past. People wander by and ignore it. Leaves and litter are blown up against it's dirty brick and grime stained windows. It is locked and shuttered. This is the Old Library.

V/O: The Old Library was given to the people of Acton 120 years ago by Victorian journalist, campaigner and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards. Easily the most attractive building in the High Street, it was a lighthouse building offering education and enlightenment to the working class for more than a century. But it fell out of use five years ago when the the library downsized to a new location nearby, the old shelves emptied and it's doors closed for good.



Scene 2.
Interior. Halogen spotlights.

Cut to eight middle-aged people sitting around a small table in a whitewashed and windowless room. It has little in it except a large flat screen TV. Six men and two women. They could be a jury in a court case if there were 12 of them. Nothing obvious unites them. Except that none of them has ever run a cinema.

V/O: When the Old Library closed, this small band of locals decided to fight any plans to turn it into flats. Acton - the eastern end of the London borough of Ealing - is piled high with new housing developments, all ready for foreign investors to park their wealth. At the same time, there's very little cultural activity on a High Street filled with chain stores and chicken shops. So this unloved and unused corner of the town became the focus of the plan to open an independent cinema. 


Scene 3.
Exterior Ealing Council building. Daytime.

Cut to multiple shots of a multi-cultural bustle. People in the street. Families. Local authority and traffic signs.  

V/O: Ealing is a huge borough, but it's not wealthy. Three hundred and fifty thousand people live in neighbourhoods stretching from Shepherd's Bush to Southall, from Southfields to Northolt. It's also a diverse mix of different nationalities and cultures. But like a lot of boroughs, Ealing has repeatedly seen it's annual operating budget cut by Central government. It's other options to raise money are limited. Arts is a long way down the priority list for any local authority that doesn't have enough money to provide the most basic of essential services for its citizens.


Scene 4.
Interior. Halogen spotlights.

Wipe to our small windowless room. Laptops, phones and lots of paper on the table. Lists, floor-plans and spreadsheets. Debate is in full flow.

V/O: The team knew that to secure the building from the council and open it as a cinema, would take a huge co-ordinated effort. They had to develop a solid business plan that would make the entire project self-financing. Ealing were in no position to offer cash handouts - either now or in the future - however worthy the cause. It also needed the full support - and the financial backing - of the wider community. 

 Fade Out


Scene 5
Interior. The Old Library.

Fade up on a bustle of activity and dust everywhere. Dozens of people are working. Nails are being pulled out of huge wooden floors. Carpet tiles are being pulled up, sorted and put into piles. Wires are being chased down and windows are being cleaned. Walls are being washed or painted. Modern white is covering local authority blue and yellow. Among this army of volunteers are the people from our windowless room earlier.

V/O: After five long years, they finally secured the building, found an independent cinema operator to build and run the screen and set about getting the doors open. A crowdfunding campaign raised more than £200,000 to cover the vital planning and legal work necessary before any physical work could even begin. Then, the community that had already dug deep financially, turned out in droves to get the work done. Armed with hammers, brooms, buckets and brushes, they all wanted to see this unbelievable story through to its final act.

October 2021 Update: The cinema opened with the Bond film "No time To Die".

November 20321- February 2022: I photographed the volunteers who put in six months of effort to transform the building. Those pictures can be found here.

May 2022 Update: Having been open for six very successful months (only closed on Christmas Day) and having established a great team of volunteers and cinema managers and staff, the directors decided to launch the fundraiser for a second screen that would secure the future of the cinema. The plan is to have that screen ready for October 2022. We'll see...

 All the pictures on this page are available as prints. Please contact oneofonlyten@gmail.com for sizes and prices.