Last night saw the launch of Backyard Cinema 2015, an outdoor cinema bonanza based in Camden Market. What started three years ago as a way of bringing films to the masses outside traditional cinema venues (and which has been highly successful, if projects like this and Rooftop Cinema are anything to go by), the 2015 edition will run between 29th July and 4th September in Camden Market every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This year’s setup will feature two screens: the Main Stage, which will show musicals, classics and blockbusters (notable shows being Whiplash, Birdman, Clueless and Guardians of the Galaxy) and the Cuban Street stage, dedicated to documentaries, indie and foreign films (among them Selma, Wild and Frances Ha).
To launch this year’s event, the film of choice was Kingsman: The Secret Service (which Sam reviewed earlier in the year), a 2015 spy flick from Matthew Vaughn, the director behind Kickass, the new X-Men reboots and Stardust. While Sam’s was a highly negative review, I found it a great choice for both the venue and the concept. It is a riff on the spy genre, with a (rather thin) plot straight out of graphic novels (which the film is actually based on), an over-the-top villain (Samuel L. Jackson) and a cast containing a smorgasbord of British talent; Colin Firth plays Galahad/Harry Hart, an agent for Kingsman, a secret service outside the realm of bureaucracy and paperwork working under Arthur (Michael Caine) and trying to maintain world peace. Alongside this, you have Gary ‘Eggsy’ Urwin (Taron Egerton), a South London lad who’s put forward by Harry as a potential Kingsman agent when one of their own is killed in action (and also as a way for Harry to assuage his guilt for being responsible for the death of Eggsy’s father).
What follows are two hours of over the top stunts, action scenes, ridiculous humour and an ending that did make me cringe a little bit. If you’re looking for a spy film to fill the Bond-shaped hole in your heart before Spectre comes out, this isn’t it; what it is is a riff on the genre, a constant tongue-in-cheek affair that never takes itself seriously. There is a scene in the film, between Firth and Jackson, where they discuss their love of older Bond films and it is that almost camp atmosphere that Vaugh is trying to portray here. Where Sam’s review thoroughly panned Kingsman, for me it worked somehow. In a world of spy films that are uber-serious (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the recent crop of Bond films), something so outlandish genuinely feels like a breath of fresh air.
Back to Backyard Cinema. It isn’t designed to simply be an outdoor viewing of a film and if last night’s press event is anything to go by, attendees are in for a treat. The food was supplied by the talented chaps at Honest Burgers, who brought back their “Backyard Burger” for this year’s showings (made with beef, American cheese, tobacco onions, mayonnaise, lettuce and burger sauce) and which went down a treat last night, as the queue below proves. The drinks were provided by the chaps at Brooklyn Brewery, who alongside their perennial lager also had the seasonal summer ale (and one I would definitely recommend), served out of a truck!
This isn’t nearly as bad as half an hour beforehand!
The weather did look like it might turn against us, so we were also offered a blanket and plastic poncho each which, although not needed in the end, provided extra layers. A word to the wise: bring an extra coat, because sitting on a bean bag for 2 hours in the great outdoors sounds doable, but sadly summer seems to be over in London, so don’t be fooled (like I was). Alongside all this, we were treated to popcorn (a staple of cinema goers everywhere) which included more unusual flavours (caramel peanut butter and goat’s cheese and black pepper being the clear favourites) and nitro-ice cream from Chin Chin Labs, a delicious creation highly reminiscent of Heston Blumenthal.
Why have salted when you could have caramel peanut butter?
Ice cream and science!
Overall, it was an amazing experience and with all the films on offer throughout July, August and September, my recommendation is that you pull up a bean bag and enjoy yourself, because Backyard Cinema is not to be missed. If anything, last night was a testament to their ongoing success and hopefully this year will also feature some of their more unusual ventures, which in the past have included Romeo and Juliet with a live choir, Awards Season (just in time for the Oscars) and Backyard Cinema Apocalypse, a zombie survival and film-watching experience! So here’s to many more of these events and thank you to Dominic and the crew at Backyard Cinema for putting on such a great night.