To SE1 last night, as the ribbon on the brand-new Bermondsey Square development was cut.
The old medieval square, formerly a clunic abbey, has been overhauled entirely and now boasts your standard modern mix of cutting-edge restaurants, luxury flats, bars, a pricey hotel and, ticking the 'authenticity' box, an age-old antiques market. However, it does have one unique attraction: Shortwave Cinema, a 50-seater uniplex which the owners wryly claim is the first cinema to be built in 21st century Britain.
The brainchild of "local DJ, filmmaker and renaissance man" Rob Wray, Shortwave has a pleasingly retro moviehouse look, with comfortable old seats re-housed from the Electric Cinema and a black and red colour scheme within. Matching the old-school aesthetic, the cinema intends to eschew blockbuster releases and instead program independent fare: they're currently showing the adaptation of David Peace's Red Riding Trilogy, while future releases include Chilean film Tony Moreno and a season of London documentaries from the 1950s.
After a drinks reception at the cinema's modern bar last night, where a traditionally dressed usher greeted guests, we were shown into the intimate space to watch a short film on Bermondsey Square's history. While the film was a little corporate in tone, it did offer an interesting snapshot of the area's history, and stressed that despite the up-market nature of the Square's new development, it would continue to be a focal point for local residents, with an inclusive attitude toward everybody in Southwark.
That attitude wasn't, however, reflected elsewhere at the Square's opening, where posh PR people wielding clipboards marshalled the entrance and security guards brooded menacingly, while groups of surly-looking kids stared from the outside in and proffered the international sign of the 'wanker' at canape-scoffing ladies.
Whatever teething troubles the Square may have in resolving its ambitions with reality, the Shortwave Cinema is definitely worth the trip to Bermondsey.