Since 2014, Deptford Cinema has been providing movie screenings and film-related events in an area of south east London that previously didn’t have a dedicated cinema space. It came about when a group of community-minded film fans came together with an idea to transform a derelict shop into a cinema and arts venue. Since then, the now award-winning, volunteer-led cinema is looking to expand further, and it’s calling on the public to help it do so, writes Holly O’Mahony…

The kickstarter campaign, dubbed Deptford Cinema’s Electric Extravaganza, was launched on June 18, with an aim to raise £15,000 in 30 days. The plan is to use the money to upgrade the electrics, which will enable the cinema to expand its programming capabilities.

The offering at Deptford Cinema is more varied – and often intellectual – than that at your nearest Odeon, Vue or even Picturehouse cinema. Its programme of screenings is meticulously curated by the cinema’s volunteers who really know and love film (some lecturer in film at universities while others are filmmakers in their own right), and want to share their enthusiasm with others. As a result, you can watch niche sci-fi movies, rarely-screened international gems and understated classics – sometimes all in one week. It’s because of this that the cinema has picked up a patronage of legendary Czech animator Jan Švankmajer, and directors Ken Loach and Lloyd Kaufman over the past five years.

The team view installing the new electricity system as the last big essential building project needed to complete the cinema – one which will allow the cinema to become more family-friendly.
“The electric upgrade is essential to make our venue more accessible so that more people can enjoy events at Deptford Cinema,” says Ada Taxi, a volunteer at the cinema. “We are planning on starting a Deptford Cinema Family Club. We’re looking into being able to facilitate more autism-friendly and child-friendly screenings. But currently there is no heating and the cinema’s auditorium gets very cold in winter, so we can’t do that yet,” she says.

In addition to heating, the electric upgrade of Deptford Cinema would include the installation of a hearing loop to enable the cinema to host more live music events and better lighting for both the cinema and small exhibition gallery.

Deptford Cinema already hosts regular events including post-show talks, bar socials and live drawing classes. As part of the revamp, the team are looking to start live-streaming theatre productions, too – something which isn’t currently available in Lewisham. “We’ll look into live streaming productions from the National Theatre as well as theatre events from Shakespeare’s Globe and other theaters,” says Ada. “We will try to find different options [in order to] make our tickets accessible to everyone.”

The campaign has got off to a good start, receiving support from those for whom the cinema has become an integral part of local culture. “We have been very touched with the support we have received from our regular clientele,” says Ada. “A lot of our supporters love the fact that we’re an independent, not-for-profit cinema with an amazing programming schedule.”

A reward scheme has been put in place for those who donate to the Electric Extravaganza campaign, which includes screen credits, film-related gifts, limited edition prints and an invitation to a private thank you event.

If Deptford Cinema meets its fundraising targets by July 19, the plan is for it to then close is doors for up to three weeks while the electrical upgrades are carried out. “When the works are finished, we’ll have a grand opening [lit by our] snazzy and modern electrical installation,” says Ada. “We have other plans for the cinema too, including to maybe change the front of the building or even expand, but these are just ideas,” she says.

As an aside from the fundraising campaign, the team at Deptford Cinema are putting their energies into creating a special programme for the five-year anniversary of the cinema, which is taking place in September.

The celebrations include screenings, live music events and film-themed parties, but the exact details are being kept a secret for now, says Ada. “We would like to exhibit photos of the building and how the space has changed over the last five years,” she reveals. “It will be a celebration not only of the cinema but of the power of people working together, selflessly, for a common goal. The team have achieved something truly remarkable in building a community cinema from scratch.”

Deptford Cinema, 39 Deptford Broadway, Deptford, London SE8 4PQ. Visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/dcgetslit/deptford-cinemas-electric-extravaganza/ to donate.