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Lights. Camera. Action: Under-threat Curzon cinema to premiere Battle of Soho

Film was inspired by the closure of Madame Jojo’s nightclub in 2014

12 December, 2016 — By Alina Polianskaya

Above: Stephen Fry and Tim Arnold in Battle of Soho. PHOTO: The Aro Krol Company.
Below: Executive producer Michael Peacock in his guise of Michaela. PHOTO: Peter Hacko

p4_michael peacock_credit Peter Hacko Photography

A FILM shining a spotlight on the changing face of Soho launches next week. The Curzon Soho, which itself plays a starring role in the film, is hosting the premiere of the documentary Battle of Soho on Thursday.

It explores the impact redevelopment is having on culture and community.

Filmmaker Aro Korol said: “Change is inevitable… but some things we can save. If people sit and do nothing they will lose. “You can’t lose hope… if you are proactive, you can change something.”

The director explained that the documentary is “observing what’s happening” rather than making a political statement.

Inspired by the closure of Madame Jojo’s nightclub in 2014, it includes commentary from many of the key players in the area – from community members and campaigners to developers. It features around 35 interviews, with contributions from Stephen Fry, who is part of the Save Soho campaign, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Lindsay Kemp and more.

Mr Korol, who was born in Poland and has since lived in many parts of the world including Germany, France and New York before moving to London, said there were parallels with what was going on in New York. Across the pond, development is also leading to the loss of cultural spots, which he feels was epitomised by the closure of live music venue CBGB in 2006.

“I observed it in New York, I observed it when CBGB closed. When Madame Jojo’s closed I saw the connection and thought: ‘People don’t realise yet what is happening here’.”

Executive producer Michael Peacock, who has been involved in a number of campaigns supporting social venues including the 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojo’s, met the director while on a protest, in a wig and red dress, in his guise of Michaela. Mr Peacock said: “Although it is called Battle of Soho, the film will hopefully resonate around the world – what is happening in Soho is happening in Berlin, Sydney, in major places all over the world.”

With development rife in the area, many cultural venues are already lost, and others are under threat, he said: “I don’t want Soho to turn into another Manhattan. I just hope it can retain some of its vibrancy.”

The campaign to save the Soho Curzon cinema, which is under threat from Crossrail II, features heavily in the film. Regional manager of the Curzon Ally Clow said the support they have received for their campaign was “fantastic”.

Developers are keen to build a ticket hall on the site of the cinema, but a campaign to save it has garnered more than 46,000 signatures.

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