Review: Première of the Starlite Urban Drive-In

Roller-Skating Waitresses - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

As I trundled up Brick Lane on a beautifully warm July evening, taking in the scent of curry from all angles and smiling politely at invitations from various dashing-looking Indian gentlemen inviting me in for dinner, I was still finding it hard to envisage exactly what an “urban drive-in” would look like. When I thought drive-in, I couldn’t help but think of undulating Hollywood hills with a space full of battered old cars housing snogging teenagers. Very difficult (nay, impossible) to imagine in East London.

I eventually found my way into the exclusive VIP party at The Brickhouse and I was bowled over by what I saw. After helping Starlite founder Damian Barr with Silent Cinema back in 2008, I knew that he put on a damn good party – always full of glamour, always special – but this time he utterly surpassed himself.

Damian Barr - (c) Mary Rhiannon Price

On arrival, I gave my name to a very smiley lass at the door (phew, on the list) then walked past an enormous flashing neon drive-in sign and up the red carpet to be confronted with row upon row of shiny, beautiful, brand-new Volvos with tops down and doors flung open, full of glamorous people drinking cocktails. Waitresses in costume and on roller skates glided around with trays of Hendrick’s gin-based cocktails and retro canapés, including mini hot-dogs, espresso cups of sweetcorn chowder, mini prawn cocktails (which were divine) and spoonfuls of macaroni cheese. I just couldn’t stop staring at everything like a kid in a (very high-end) toy shop – it was like stepping into a world that’s normally reserved for the movies.

The Original Urban Drive-In - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

50s-style entertainment was provided by toe-tapping leggy lovelies The Tootsie Rollers and Pippa the Ripper,  the most phenomenal hula-hooping act I’ve ever seen in my life. Then, it was time for jiving with some rock ‘n’ roll choons before the drive-in entertainment began.

The fabulous Tootsie Rollers - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

After a fair few cocktails (and a fair amount of wishful thinking) I decided I could totally see myself cruising along Brighton seafront in this, the ice-white Volvo C70. Clearly the lady sat next to me could see the lust in my eyes and said: “They are discounted by about 20% tonight you know?” Somehow, I didn’t think my credit limit would stretch quite that far… so a cab back to Victoria station it was.

Fabulous photos all courtesy of Mary Rhiannon Pryce.

Starlite: The World’s First Urban Drive-In

As a kid, Grease was undoubtedly my favourite movie. I knew all the songs and all the dialogue inside-out, I loved the 1950s glamour and the dancing, but most of all I loved the drive-in. Row upon row of convertibles in front of a huge screen created (in my eyes) the potential for the most romantic setting imaginable – cuddled up watching a movie under the stars.

Now, thanks to Damian Barr, the retro American-style Drive-in is being revived 2010-style… and it’s coming to London. The ultra-trendy Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, to be precise.

The man who brought us Silent Cinema, the Shoreditch House Literary Salon and Reader in Residence now, in partnership with Volvo, brings us the Starlite Urban Drive-In: “We all grew up with the drive-in dream,” says Damian. “But it never happened in Britain because we don’t have the space, the weather, or that car culture. I wanted to update the idea and make it work for an urban, eco-conscious audience and this seemed the perfect way to do it.”

For just £25 per person, you get to kick back in a shiny new Volvo convertible, order cocktails and popcorn from roller-skating waitresses and enjoy fabulous retro canapes. There’ll be no “sshh-ing” of the crowds either, as you’ll be enjoying the film through your car’s stereo, adding that extra level of intimacy to the viewing experience – which is what Silent Cinema was all about.

On Friday night (2nd July) there’s the chance to go all girly over Patrick Swayze with a screening of Dirty Dancing, then on Saturday (3rd) you’ll be transported back to the 50s for real with the ultimate drive-in movie, Grease. Although advance tickets for both nights are sold out, there’ll be more released on the day – so make sure you join the Facebook Group and keep an eye on the website for more details.

Keep an eye on Alice Writes for my review of the VIP screening on July 1st…

Bond at Bedtime: Damian Barr’s Reader in Residence comes to Brighton

BrightonArt & CultureBooks & LiteratureBook Readings

Once upon a time in a very swish, ultra-modern Brighton hotel, sat a dashing young Scottish gentleman in stripy designer pyjamas…

In partnership with City Reads and as continuation of his highly successful transatlantic ‘Reader in Residence’ sessions, Damian Barr will be reading excerpts from this year’s City Reads book of choice – Ian Fleming’s ‘From Russia With Love’- whilst a small audience of four people sip the most alcoholic vodka martinis in existence. Shaken, not stirred of course.

The readings are taking place hourly from 6pm on Thursday evenings during April in the stunning third-floor ‘Carousel’ penthouse suite at Myhotel, Brighton. At £450 per night, this is probably the only way I’ll ever get to enjoy this room short of a lottery win.

Greeted by Damian and a softly-playing James Bond soundtrack, we sat down in plush leather chairs whilst being mixed cocktails by our own personal barman (unfortunately, he doesn’t come with room). Although initially I thought the whole scenario would be a little odd, being read to aloud felt like the most wonderful mix of adult Jackanory meets book group – there’s something incredibly comforting yet intimate about it. If my English Literature seminars at university had been more like this I’m sure I’d have taken far greater pleasure in them. Especially if they came with martinis.

Of course, with something like this you have to have the right kind of person reading to you – I’m sure that had it been Joe Pasquale sitting there the effect wouldn’t have been the same. Damian clearly knows what his strengths are (in this case, his wonderful Scottish accent and clear passion for a damn good story) and this is yet another inspiring idea in addition to the fantastic Silent Cinema and forthcoming Starlite Urban Drive-in.

If you love stories, lush penthouses, martinis and consider yourself just a little bit of a literature geek, then this is definitely something to catch while you can – truly a unique experience.

Check out my review of Bedroom Bond – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype