Rose Rouse rocks Harlesden with Lexi Cinema founder Sally Wilton
Despite the weather the pair have fun exploring NW10
Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure in Harlesden. Every month, she walks around NW10 talking to people on your doorstep. This time it’s Sally Wilton of Lexi cinema, which will bring its pop up screen to the Misty Moon in March.
It’s a grim, rainy morning and I find myself wondering if Sally Wilton – I love the way she signs herself as dreamer as opposed to chief executive at the end of her emails – will actually turn up.
I needn’t have worried. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is made of sterner stuff. She �arrives in her hat and gloves.
As we march down Anson Road, she explains how she used to not only survive the weather but also the letter boxes when she delivered Lexi fliers to households by hand back in 2008 when it had just opened. “I could do a PHD in the potential dangers of letter boxes,” she jests unexpectedly. “There are ones with teeth that almost bite your hand off, the ones that are impossible to push open and the ones that say “no junk mail”.
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“A woman with the latter wanted to give me the flier back until I explained what the Lexi was, then she accepted it graciously.”
I don’t expect Sally to be humorous, but she is. Quietly so. She is also a full-time philanthropist. Having sold her business – Etc Venues which were affordable �corporate training premises – in 2006 for �21 million, she and fellow trustees became not so secret �millionaires and the Lynedoch eco-village in South Africa was her first destination. The Lexi was her second and all of its profits go to the eco-village.
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Did the Lexi really result from the amazing community spirit that emerged at the time of thebizarre micro-tornado in Kensal Rise in 2006? “Well, I was already looking for a building,” she says, “although I had no idea how to run a cinema. It just stemmed from my love of film. I was out in South Africa when it happened.
“I thought my children were pulling my leg but I flew straight back when I realised it was true.
“Luckily only our house’s �windows had smashed because a furniture van outside had taken much of the impact. However, the community spirit was amazing, everyone was helping each other. And the Lexi was very much born in that atmosphere. Today we have 50 volunteers from the community all helping us out, and some of them get involved with the eco-village too.”
The Lexi is housed in an Edwardian building that used to be called Pinkham Hall. “Colonel Pinkham created it in 1928 as a theatrical space and as a part of the Conservative Men’s Club next door,” she says. “I saw it was for sale,” she says, “and they said it had already been sold, but I immediately wrote a document for what I envisaged was going to be a community cinema and I got it. I had to go and meet the Men’s Club committee which was an experience in itself. The Constitutional Club is like going back into the 1950s. The treasurer is 85 and remembers queuing round the block for the old cinemas that used to be further down Chamberlayne Road.”
Eventually, we make our way – to the Misty Moon (formerly a cinema called the Coliseum) where the Lexi’s Nomad pop-up cinema will have screenings in March. What does she want to show? “Unusual films,” she says. “We don’t want to do the obvious.”
The Lexi has already welcomed Joan Collins, David Puttnam, and Bill Nighy so I wonder who they will invite to the Misty Moon...
Watch out for screenings info on thelexicinema.co.uk
The film Dance Willesden Junction of Rose and friends can be found on her blog Not On Safari In Harlesden.