Sugarhouse Studios pop-up cinema
A temporary space for food, film and music
On a forlorn stretch of dual carriageway just minutes away from the sleek lines and big-bucks architecture of the Olympic site, sits the latest project by the team behind last summer’s pop-up cinema Folly for A Flyover.
Assemble, a community interest company (CIC) made up of artists, architects and designers, have set up an independent cinema in a disused sign-writers workshop near Three Mills, in a typically faceless warehouse that may well have hosted lawless three-day raves in the pre-Olympic years.
Transforming empty urban spaces
Sugarhouse Studios retains the name of its former occupants, transforming the interior from chilly hangar into a cosy bar/ café space and cinema auditorium cleverly constructed from locally found scrap wood. Building on their previous experience both with Folly- which made a bleak Hackney underpass over into a buzzing cinema last summer- and with Cinerollium, in Clerkenwell, Sugarhouse Studios similarly mixes film, music and food in a unique location.
Olympic Legacy regeneration?
As with their previous ventures, the makeover was facilitated by up to 300 volunteers, though this project has been funded with assistance from a grant from the Olympic Park Legacy Company (now called the London Legacy Development Corporation). This body is responsible for the legacy of the Olympic Games, and ‘delivers physical, social, economic and environmental regeneration’ to the area surrounding it in the shape of fringe proejcts such as this development.
Grass roots collaborations
While many are suspicious of what this regeneration really involves- private landlords pricing out locals being near the top of concerns- in this case it seems they are supporting a company genuinely interested in grass-roots community interaction. For example, Assemble have been busy engaging with locals, aiming to get people more proactively and creatively involved in their use of public space. As part of this project, they collaborated with young people in nearby schools to design and construct prototypes of cast concrete furniture that could improve the local environment.
Aside from this, Sugarhouse Studios is shaping up to be a venue for that other East London community- artists, designers, filmmakers and other assorted creatives- who are no doubt drawn to its hidden, somewhat dystopian setting as well as the cultural and culinary fare on offer.
Eclectic cinema programme
On the film front, Amica Dall from Assemble explained that their eclectic program stems from their contacts with local film clubs, festivals and curators, who each bring a slightly different feel to the nights they stage. The evening I attended, festival circuit favourite Ben Rivers was invited by Passenger films to respond to questions after the screening of his new feature, Two Years at Sea.
Other nights have shown more classic fare, such as The Long Good Friday, which was filmed nearby and thereby evokes the changing fortunes of this truly Cockney area- defined, according to London legend, as being within the sound of the nearby Bow Bells.
Catering to the foodies, there’s well-priced (and decent) coffee and pizza in the bar area, as well as the already packed-out Sunday Supper Clubs, which invite a different local guest chef each week to put on a themed banquet.
Saturdays have a clubbier atmosphere, with local festival Hackney WickED recently showcasing a night of artists’ films and performance followed by music and late bar. Friday nights will provide a drinking den for locals, plus a ping-pong table for those wanting a more active style of hang-out- though you’ll have to be quick as the venue will only last the summer.
It’s pared down charms and varied programme means Sugarhouse Studios seems set to be a summer gathering point for all sorts of film, food and fun aficionados in the East End.