Secret Cinema axes plans to host summer screening in Wormwood Scrubs

Thousands of audience members were expected to visit the 200-acre nature reserve surrounding the prison to take part in the clandestine cinematic experience in August this year.

But the company have withdrawn their attempt after locals objected to their plans to host two shows citing damage to the local hibernating bat population, spotted woodpecker nests, song thrushes and juvenile warblers.

A statement from Secret Cinema on Wednesday confirmed the company would not be going ahead with plans for two shows in August 2023 after they failed to complete a feasibility study into the ecological impact.

Producer of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap in the West End, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, told the Standard he hoped the ‘pause’ would give Secret Cinema time to “reassess their options”.

The chair of Friends of Wormwood Scrubs said: “Like many of us, I’m feeling relieved at least this year we are not going to have to deal with Secret Cinema.

“We think it’s just not a suitable space, the woods around the edge of the scrubs. It’s a wild, open space, well for London it’s wild.

“It’s not a park there isn’t any lightning or tarmac roads.

“In the summer people like to use the scrubs for picnics or impromptu cricket games.

“We’re not against events, and Secret Cinema are a good company, but this was too big, too long, too intrusive and had too many people.”

He added: “They didn’t have the time to do ecological surveys to work out how not to wreck the scrubs.

“I think they realised the depth of feeling among residents.”

Secret Cinema has hosted award-winning immersive productions of Blade Runner and Back To The Future in abandoned warehouses and industrial sites.

Secret Cinema put on its first North American event in Los Angeles providing creative direction on a “Stranger Things” drive-thru experience.

The company launched a Crowdcube to raise funds in 2021 after it was forced to shelve shows during the pandemic.

Their statement said: “For every show, Secret Cinema undertakes a full feasibility study in relation to the site and the impact that our event would have on local residents and wildlife. Part of this feasibility study is the consultation with residents and stakeholders.

“It has become clear that more information is needed to assess our impact, in particular the impact on the ecology surrounding the site.

“We will continue a dialogue and consultation with LBHF to assess the feasibility of holding events in WSOS.”

Cllr Alex Sanderson, Chair of the Wormwood Scrubs Charitable Trust, added: “We welcome Secret Cinema’s decision to make further assessments of the impact the event would have on the ecology of the Scrubs and its commitment to consultation before moving forward. We will be observing closely and participating actively in this process.”

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