Cinemapping Castle Park

Mapping the cinemas in Castle Park for the next phase

Kieron Gurner, my production assistant, and I have been busy beavering away in Castle Park.  Following an initial site visit with Heritage Partner, Peter Insole, I've been researching the five cinemas located within the park, The Queens, The News Theatre, The Dolphin, The Castle Street Cinema and the Regent, plus the Gem, Odeon and Europa on the periphery - I've managed to locate maps outlining the footprints of the buildings and have overlaid them onto an aerial map of the park (the yellow shapes), together with the original streets (in purple). 

Aerial view of Castle Park with original streets and historic cinemas overlaid

2012 Aerial view of Castle Park with original streets and historic cinemas overlaid

As you can see, being able to see the original streets and the footprints of the buildings is useful in terms of anchoring the experience in relation to what is there now, given that the majority of these cinemas are no longer extant.  The Regent is particularly interesting, due to its very size - it was a huge super-cinema with over 2000 seats with two entrances, one on Peter Street, next to the St Peter's Church, and another that is now at the cross-roads of paths leading from the Church to Castle Street on the East-West axis, and from Broad Weir to the river on the North-South axis.  The Peter Street entrance was to the cheaper stalls and the Castle Street entrance for the posher seats, both had "crush" foyers with a capacity of 1000 so people could queue out of the rain.  We found some benches at the bottom of the hill looking down towards a row of silver birches where the screen would've been, so we're trying to incorporate that into the soundscape and narrative.

Kieron and I recorded some scratch audio - us going round reading bits out on the hoof - which Kieron tested with some willing volunteers last weekend and the feedback was very useful - people weren't that interested in looking at the map but prefered to wander around listening with the phone in their pocket. Emotive bits went down well, like me celebrating the fact the Odeon is still extant - yay! And the more personal stories about specific cinemas were also valued.  Things to think about include: the size of the regions, the logic of what happens when you leave a region, the length of the audio, the areas of the park where there were no cinemas, anchoring people physically in relation to the present and the past, using landmarks (I'd used trees and bins as reference points in the scratch audio, only to learn that there were lots of bins next to trees so need to use more unique features).  Other things to consider: images and maps - to have them, or not, or stick to audio, one idea is to have images as souvenirs you collect by triggering media by physically being there; interface - we're still brewing on the feedback from the Whiteladies single point of interest test and incorporating changes into a new overall interface that will also accommodate the Castle Park experience.

Key priority is to write a script, record some more strutured scratch audio and test with kids from Fairfield High School in Castle Park in early July - looking forward to the uncompromising opinions of teenagers - always painful, but the most useful kind of feedback ever.