This summer Brits have been flocking to parks, castles and riversides to watch cinema under the stars. Unlike Saturday night at the movies however, Sasha Arms does care which picture she sees… (photos by Nomad Cinema)

The UK is a big fan of just about anything that can ‘pop up’ at the moment, and regular UTB readers will be well-informed on the slew of pop up restaurants that came and went this summer in London. The latest pop up phenomenon on our radar is The Nomad Cinema, which brought a cornucopia of cinematic celebrations to parks across London and the south east over summer and is set to continue into autumn and winter. Screening family favourites like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The King’s Speech and The African Queen in venues ranging from Richmond Park to Leeds Castle, there are films and locations to suit all tastes and travel requirements. The question on my mind was whether this perambulating approach to the silver screen was here to stay, or would it be gone in 60 seconds?

Popcorn by the pool

The thought of watching The Goonies in Dulwich Park on a distinctively average grey Sunday evening didn’t have me feeling as galvanised as much as I hoped it might. Why could this be? After all, I’d be watching a childhood classic on the big screen, underneath (some of) the stars in the great outdoors, and importantly without having to deal with a chorus of popcorn snorting teens who tend to flock on heat to the cinemas of the bog standard shopping centre variety. Yes, I should definitely feel a little more enthusiastic than I did. In hindsight, my lacklustre approach to the affair was obvious. I’d never seen The Goonies before (the shock and horror from friends who had watched it on repeat in their youth did not change the fact that this was my first). With no fond childhood memory to latch onto, I was altogether much more pragmatic to my Nomad Cinema approach. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I was not looking forward to sitting on the floor uncomfortably for a few hours, nor to the impending cold of the evening setting in that played on my lifelong fear of, well… being cold.

Swashbuckling in the rain
It was in this strangely dramatic mood that I arrived in Dulwich Park, armed with a picnic blanket and two extra hoodies. Immediately I spotted the Airstream Alfresco, an airstream trailer filled with goodies of the food and beverage variety. I noted with particular enthusiasm the availability of beer and spirits. “Warming,” I told a fellow nomad.

Settling down on an appropriate patch of grass (not behind those who had wisely thought to bring their garden chairs nor those with children), we were soon advised that we’d be waiting for sunset for optimum picture quality. Time for beer and Minstrels then: my misguided melodrama started to dispel. This was quite fun actually. Getting together with like-minded people out for a good film in a fenced off area in Dulwich Park was a good idea.

Plus the entrepreneurial spirit was rife. Firstly, the unmatchable ‘Love Da Pop’ boys were there (of Dragon’s Den fame). Selling popcorn in peg-topped, candy-striped bags of flavours ranging from ‘caramel kiss’ to white chocolate, their presence certainly appealed to Dulwich Park’s trend-spotting pop up crowd. And then, after everyone had been sitting waiting for sunset for a little while, came the pièce de résistance: funky, triangular-shaped-cushions on sale. For by that time, fear number one had started to come into fruition. Sitting on the ground was already uncomfortable, and the film hadn’t even started yet. While I remained proud and arranged hoodies into leaning post/blanket combos, the garden furniture bright sparks smirked as the majority of others meekly purchased all manner of backache-averting paraphernalia.

Creme de la Thames
With this small diversion over, we were finally ready for the show to begin. Watching an all-American school kid adventure, a crowd of mostly adults tittered, cheered in the right places and even sang along to The Goonies theme tune, as Dulwich Park descended into darkness. There were no pesky teens and only a few annoying children who were up past their bedtime. I didn’t get too cold or achy (and had this been the case, could have been easily remedied with a touch more preparation) and even though the sound and screen could have been enjoyed from almost anywhere in Dulwich Park – bright and booming as it was – a general sense or order and camaraderie prevailed as we all nodded to each other, knowing we’d dutifully paid for our tickets to sit inside the fence. Good old Britishness at its best.

The key to having a good Nomad Cinema experience rests on preparedness and choice of film. I wholeheartedly admit that I did neither to the best of my ability, but there is nothing quite like the breathing space of watching a film al fresco in the middle of a grand old park. What’s more, Nomad Cinema is not just a summer pastime, as the cinema will find itself in all manner of unusual indoor locations well into the colder months.

Why not, I’ll give it another go this winter. Rather than find myself miming along to the ‘The Goonies R Good Enough‘ theme tune, however, I will be a bit more discerning when choosing a film next time…

More info on the Nomad Cinema official website

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