Saturday, June 09, 2012

London's historic Electric Cinema saved from blaze

There was drama in tourist-crammed Portobello Road, West London, this afternoon when smoke started billowing from the vicinity of the legendary and much-loved Electric Cinema, London's oldest purpose-built cinema which first opened its doors in 1911. Next to the cinema is the Electric Brasserie, and above that the private Electric members' club. As smoke filled Portobello Road police vehicles and 12 fire engines with more than 60 firefighters and ambulances rushed to the scene and Portobello with its buzzing street market was evacuated. An emergency services helicopter circled low overhead while the firemen fought the blaze.

Messages of alarm started circulating on Twitter; was it possible that the iconic Electric Cinema was being engulfed in an inferno? After some five hours  the London Fire Brigade tweeted: ‏@LondonFire "Lots of interest in the fire at Electric Cinema including from @StephenMerchant the cinema suffered little damage. Fire was in extractor fan". The fire started in the Electric Brasserie kitchen, Soho House, which runs the Electric, said. (Soho House was founded by entrepreneur Nick Jones whose wife is the TV presenter and presenter of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs Kirsty Young). The  Telegraph had a report on the fire this evening.

The pictures below show the scene in Portobello Road at around 9pm. There was a stench of smoke as one approached Portobello. The sections of the road around the Electric cinema and Brasserie is still taped off. There is much relief that the beautiful cinema has survived virtually unscathed. The open windows were one of the few signs that it had been threatened with destruction by fire just a few hours earlier. It is not clear when the cinema will be able to resume its screenings (current film had been  Prometheus), nor when the Electric Brasserie and Club will be back in action.

report and pictures by Susannah Tarbush

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