So today one of London’s most venerable institutions disappears from the cultural map of the capital. What was the National Film Theatre opens its doors as BFI South Bank, after 50-odd years the concrete bunker under Waterloo Bridge that has been the world’s leading cinematheque morphs into this new entity.
Should we be sad? Maybe a little. The new name is a meaningless, bland Blairite re-brand, designed to pander to the whims of the grey-suits at the DCMS and the London Destruction Agency.
On the other hand, for cineastes the new centre could well prove to be a Mecca and for lovers of London on film the Mediatheque’s London Calling collection will become a second home (John Krish’s film of the last day of the London trams, the Thames circa 1935 in colour, Sparrows Can’t Sing, the Ealing Tram Panorama circa 1901, John Smith’s ‘Blight’ etc. etc.) – book your spot now you’ll love it I’m sure (call 020 7928 3535).
None of this required the ditching of this much-loved name and it’s an interesting example of how a slightly obscure geographical location has taken on the symbolic weight of meaning ‘culture’. Another entry in the catalogue of disappearance (and emergence).