3rd August 2013

Guest writer Lauren Belcher shares a festival that you may not have heard of but is not to be missed. 

East London has it’s fair share of amazing venues. With quirky cafes, age-old cinemas, eccentric clubs, and a few green spaces, there’s a lot to choose from. So why is Shuffle, the upcoming film festival curated by Danny Boyle, taking place in the grounds of an old psychiatric hospital of all places?

That isn’t to say that the venue doesn’t have it’s charms -the defunct buildings of St Clement’s hospital in Bow are beautiful and the large grounds provide a precious outdoor space in the heart of the East End- but there is something rather surreal about sitting on benches by the obligatory festival food van and reading a sign that directs you to the old wards.

The real reason for the choice of setting, however, is that on this occasion, it was location first and event second. The film festival is actually a prelude (a damn good one) to the UK’s first ever urban Community Land Trust. In between Danny Boyle films, mindfulness workshops and DJ sets, you’ll be able to get an idea of what a community lands trust is, (if you weren’t quite savvy enough to know before – I certainly wasn’t) and why there is going to be one on the site of St Clements.


With the housing ladder becoming more and more difficult to get onto, trying something new sounds pretty appealing. The model is already being used successfully in the US, and if this pilot scheme goes well, it will make housing easier to buy. “Community lands trusts solve the housing crisis.” claims Lizzy Daish , who works for the East London Community Lands Trust.  “The community owns the land, so when houses are sold it takes out the land price, which makes the properties more affordable. Since houses are sold back to the community, they are never on the market. It is the only sustainable model of home ownership.”

The project has inspired some controversy, with the ELCLT being called ‘Hoxton Hipsters’ and questions floating around about St Clement’s history. The festival, therefore, is a way of opening the site to the public for the first time “so that people can enjoy it, explore… and celebrate the history that it did have,” explains Lizzy. “We want to respect that the site’s previous users are survivors of drug therapy, and respect people’s stories, good or bad.”

To this end the film festival is having a ‘day of the mind’ on 11th of August.. There’ll be a mindfulness workshop run by a former St Clement’s employee; Ruby Wax, who has been open about her own depression, is performing (like it or not);  they’re screening One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; and, in the ‘Lightbox Cinema,’  kids will be able to create a film using articles and images from the old psychiatric hospital itself.


The star of the show though, has to be Danny Boyle, who has chosen the films and will be doing Q&A sessions throughout the week. Not only has Boyle been knocking around St Clement’s when he can, but he’s offered his direction to students of Central Foundation Girls’ School who’ll be performing their play on mental health at the festival.

With Time Out running the outdoors screen (headphones and all), after-parties nearly every evening, contributions from the Barbican and a gorgeous outdoor setting, Shuffle promises to be worth going to. Who knew creating affordable housing could be so cool?


Find out more about the event here.

Photo: Jessica Sutton