Sally Wilton

Sally Wilton comments on pop-up cinema

Sally Wilton with children

Sally Wilton with children attending The Sustainability Institute, the Nomad’s nominated charity in rural Stellenbosch, South Africa

Sally Wilton founded the Nomad in 2010 as a roaming pop-up cinema experience. The venture, the third with her name on it, is now recognised as ‘London’s best outdoor cinema’. In this interview, Wilton explains what it takes to launch a pop-up cinema and sheds light on how this can be an all year round business with a positive twist to it.

An entrepreneur and a pioneer, Wilton’s first company was Etc Venues, an initiative she launched in 1992 as an employee share ownership trust. Her idea was to fill the gap for affordable temporary training and conference facilities in London. After selling the business in 2006, she embarked on the adventure of creating The Lexi, a small cinema “with big heart” in Kensal Rise. The small Edwardian house has been serving as an arts centre for the comunity around it ever since.

Shortly after that, Wilton hit the road with the Nomad. “The idea being to take The Lexi’s magic to a wider audience,” she says, adding that 100 per cent of the profits are covenanted to  charity. The Sustainability Institute, a living and learning centre in rural Stellenbosch, South Africa, has been the nominated charity for many years. “Our mission is to transform lives through film, locally and globally,” she explains. This charitable background prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to honour Wilton with the Point of Light Award in 2016.

How is the market for outdoor cinemas and how it has developed over the years?

When we first started there were very few people in the marketplace and now there are many. What makes us unique is the covenanting of profits so that by coming to a Nomad screening you are enjoying yourself and doing good.

For corporate clients, on the other hand, becoming involved with Nomad means that you can achieve your CSR goals in addition to hosting wonderful screening events.

As a pop-up cinema organiser, what is your relationship with the venues?

We search for wonderful venues and wonderful venues approach us, many because they like the fact that our profits go to charity and we are professional and great people to work with. So, we have screened in cemeteries, fabulous parks, private squares, churches, shopping centres, you name it; we screen there!

Nomad pop-up cinema

Nomad pop-up cinema for the Grosvenor Film Festival, July 2017

Can Nomad bring a pop-up cinema to any place?

We will look at any venue, but have some useful rules of thumb depending on whether it needs to make a commercial return or if a screening is being done to open up a new area, or to entertain local residents or clients.

What are the requirements, and restrictions, for a pop-up cinema?

With the right resources screenings can be done in most places – having power on site is useful, but a generator can be brought in. Having good sight lines for the audience is a must, and on site toilets are a bonus.

Is this a seasonal business or do you have events all year round?

Outdoor pop-up is mainly a summer activity, so autumn, winter and spring are usually indoor events. It is really a case of interesting space – lets give it a whirl.

The Nomad cinema is London-based?

We have actually been outside London. We have done a Christmas tour round the country for a corporate client and a week in Southampton. Audiences out of London love pop-up because it is more rare and has that wow factor.

What events are planned for the coming months?

We have a screening of a Harry Potter film -The Philosophers Stone in Leadenhall, the location for Diagon Alley (Sunday 22 October – sold out). We have a wonderful screening of Nosferatu with a live score in the rehearsal space of the LSO St Luke’s, and Silence of the Lambs at the Hoxton Hotel (Sun 29 October – sold out). We are working on some Christmas treats as well as planning for 2018.

Nosferatu screening

The Nomad has team up with LSO St Luke’s, the Grade I listed events space on London’s Old Street, to play host to a screening of Nosferatu, the 1922 classic horror film. Shceduled on 26 October, the screening has been organised to celebrate Halloween.

Old Street Partnership, an alliance of key local businesses that have come together with the aim of promoting the  area, has joined forces with the London Symphony Orchestra’s music education centre, to bring guests a chilling performance of the film, complete with live score from The Cabinet of Living Cinema.

Performed above LSO St Luke’s crypt, once home to over 1,000 burials, guests will experience a truly unique screening fit for this masterpiece.