What Sounds and Silence Cinema, a new venture from event organiser Harrisworks, promises is something called an EventScape. I’m assuming this is to bring to mind the term soundscape, which is a sound or collection of sounds that forms an immersive environment.
What Is It?
Sounds and Silence promises a combination of ambient, specially composed music, with silent cinema classics. So, naturally what I was expecting was a film-screening that was going to be oozing sentimental gooeyness from its very walls, not a standard showing.
Setting oneself up to fail, you cynics may comment.
The film was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. The Lodger is a fairly standard take on Jack the Ripper, containing some choppy and unrefined examples of Hitchcock’s trademark style. The Presenter announced to great interest at the start that although this seems a tired trope now, in 1927 when the film was made, the Ripper was all well within living memory.
The Lodger doesn’t reflect that fear and brutality. Although an atmospheric film, it favours a softer edge. It’s unwilling to focus on the killer himself, or the victims (who are, in the style of both the Ripper and Hitchcock, of course, female). It instead focusses on moo-cow eyed Ivor Novello, who set a few hearts a-flutter still, almost a century after one of his best roles.
The venue was Jacaranda Records’ Phase One. If you feel you’re not quite sure what it is, you’re okay to feel that way. Jacaranda Records’ Phase One bar is brand new on Seel Street, a couple of yards from Allan Williams original venue: Jacaranda, Slater Street. It’s a damn exciting place that the former Beatles manager himself would have been proud of. And yes, like the newly refurbished upper floor of the Slater Street bar, it is a fully functioning record store and bar. Rare pressings, limited editions and box-sets adorn the walls, from Prince to Biggie, Joplin and Zeppelin.
In the back, there’s a stage for live music, and a collection of sheds which serve as ‘listening booths’, each one with a record player in. You probably won’t need it though, because the staff, who are super-hip and friendly, curate the bar’s playlist. It is excellent.
Sounds and Silence promises a new movie screening in a new location every event. The intention is, according to organiser Leona Harris (hence Harrisworks), to make it a monthly fixture in Liverpool. Following this first event in the indie-mecca speakeasy vibe of Jacaranda’s Phase One, there’s some talk of taking advantage of the space (and projector) in the Baltic Triangle’s District bar, Tusk Baltic and they’ve been branching out elsewhere to weigh up their options.
Did it Work?
Judging from the head-count, I would speculate that those options are numerous. The turn-out was very strong, and, unusually for a town-centre event, the Harrisworks team had actually laid out a spread.
This spread included nothing that wouldn’t have been eaten in the 20s, and they were actually referred to as “Hors d’Ouvres”, which was adorable. The “Hors d’Ouvres” ran out about 2 minutes before the film began, I noticed, which is just one of those little things that tells me, as an event junkie, that I’m probably in safe hands.
As we were escorted to our seats by the usher who doubled as a waiter (dressed, I might add, in slacks and braces), I took it all in. The usher pulled back the thick curtain that divided the record store and the event area. Although I didn’t get the fancy cinema chairs I had imagined, the tables were covered with some sort of silky drapery, the walls were delicately lit with fairy-lights wrapped in ivy, and stage was set with soft, purplish evening-glow.
‘I’ve got to hand it to them’ I thought, and then didn’t finish the thought, because they handed me a cocktail. In fact they handed everyone a cocktail.
It was a well-made, slightly off-kilter Dark & Stormy (Rum + Lime + Ginger Beer). I enjoyed it but couldn’t wrap my head around what was different about it. So I asked, which is when I met Andy. Andrew Laird is a Liverpool businessman whose company, 3 Lids Rum (I know, hilarious) have made a cacao infused, citrusy, vanilla aroma – really complex – 40% Rum, which has been aged for 5 years in Bourbon Casks. Cane & Bean 1870 Rum was all everyone, including myself, was buying all night.
Overall, I have to say, they proved that the back of a record-store is actually a pretty malleable space. I felt like I was being taken away somewhere, certainly away from Seel Street. I don’t know if it was the Rum, Liverpool Jazz-pianist Tony Judge‘s soaring score that he composed specifically for the film, or the magic of Hitchcock, but you could have heard a pin-drop in that screening. I have never seen a group of people so engaged with silent cinema. Something inside me said ‘they must have done something right’, but what I meant to say was: ‘they did everything right.’