St Patrick’s Day Live Event: More Than A Muse

Over the next few months, I'll be doing a series of events to launch my novel series about the great activist and poet, Maud Gonne, and the poet she inspired, WB Yeats. I'm starting out at home–my new home of St Leonards on Sea, that is–with a St Patricks Day event at Kino-Teatr: More Than A Muse: Maud Gonne and the Poetry of WB Yeats.

St Patrick's Day Events at Kino Teatr: Irish Film Week

Kino-Teatr is owned and run by the dynamic duo, Russell Baker and Olga Mamonova. It just so happens that Olga, artistic director, art historian, and writer, has a doctorate in Irish literature from Trinity College Dublin, and a deep interest in Irish culture.

Every year, she curates an amazing Irish film week and I'm delighted to be closing out Irish Film Week 2024, with this talk about Maud  Gonne and her social and political achievements in her own right, as well as her influence on the poet WB Yeats.

If you're anywhere in or around St Leonards on Sea, I would truly love to see you there!

Events at Kino Teatr: Cinema, Music, Theatre, Art

One of the reasons we chose this coastal town of St Leonards on Sea to live in is its vibrant creative community, and Kino-Teatr is the beating heart of that community. Olga and Russell gave the building a thoughtful makeover when they took it on, almost a decade ago. The style might be described as industrial chic, adorned by carefully curated Russian artworks of The Baker-Mamonova Gallery.

The Reel bar and restaurant, run by the delightful Sam, anchors an expansive open area and lofted mezzanine housing the spacious art gallery which showcases the art and hosts exhibitions. Scattered cabinets cradle collections of Soviet-era toys and figures, while vintage cinema equipment nods to the venue's rich cinematic heritage

The auditorium, where the films, entertainments and talks are held, has stripped back walls, adorned with layers of peeling paint and a beautiful domed ceiling that enhances the acoustics and a plush red curtain that invokes old-style cinematic glamour. My favorite place to sit is right at the front, in plush armchairs that make watching any film feel like an intimate affair, combining the joys of big screen, shared spectacle, and personal haven. From the rear, a second bar serves drinks and snacks to enjoy during the performance.

This delightful space offers up such a rich tapestry of cultural experiences each month, from indie and mainstream films to live music, theatre, comedy, sound baths, and a monthly Bavard “A delightful blend of TED, comedy & Radio 4. Sort of. “, run by the wonderfully wacky Tim B'vard.

The Baker-Mamonovas see themselves as working in close collaboration with the area's gifted creative community. Russell says: “The growing sense of community and seeing our audience enjoy and appreciate our programme has been the single most rewarding experience throughout our 24/7 engagement at Kino-Teatr.”

History of Kino-Teatr

history of kino-teatr st leonards on sea
Before it was Kino-Teatr it was The Curzon

Of course I had to have a little delve into the history of Kino-Teatr. St Leonards built by famous early Victorian architects, James and Decimus Burton, to be a fashionable seaside destination. The pair worked on properties in London, including developing the Regent's Park area, and St Leonard's gardens and houses on the Marina were inspired by this work in the capital.

What is now Kino-Teatr first opened its doors on 5th November 1913, as the town's first purpose-built cinema, the Kinema Palace, renamed just Kinema. It somehow survived two German bombing raids in 1943 during World War II, though the first raid on Hastings-St Leonards  targeted an adjacent pub, resulting in tragic loss, while the second later that year also destroyed buildings nearby.

In 1952, the building was modernized and rebranded as the Curzon Cinema, and in 1966 it changed hands and became part of the London-based Classic Cinemas chain. In those years, it struggled, fighting off proposals to convert it into a bingo club and a sex cinema, among other threats. Eventually it closed its doors on 23rd January 1977.

The 1990s were not kind to St Leonards, when much of it became bedsit land, full of poorly-cared for flats for those on benefits. There was high crime and high drug use and the old cinema building was taken over by Brookers building merchants, who further alterated its façade.

Russell and Olga's intervention has preserved this historical venue but reinvented it as a beacon of cultural and artistic excellence and a testament to the power of creative vision, hard work, and community support in breathing new life into historic spaces.

PS: Kino-Teatr is Fundraising

Olga mamonova and Bill Nighy
Olga and Bill Nighy

Everyone loves Kino-Teatr from former guests such as Sir David Hare, actors Paul McGann, Bill Nighy, Julian Sands, and Brian Gleeson, directors David Caffrey and Mike Figgis, to local acts like the inimitable Sarah Jane Morris (of whom more on this blog soon)…and hundreds more.

However, the venue now faces significant challenges. On top of  post Covid lockdowns and the current economic climate in the UK, it recently suffered major flooding, which severely impacted their building infrastructure and projection room.

Despite a long-standing principle of self-sufficiency and reluctance to seek financial help from their supportive audience, circumstances now compel them to seek assistance in preserving this cultural heart of St Leonards.

Their “Save Kino Teatr” Go Fund Me page is here.

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