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Introduction
1967
25th September

Drury Lane Arts Lab opens, London

In the September of 1967, The Arts Lab opened on Drury Lane in Covent Garden, and was designed as a centre for theatre, poetry, film, happenings and arts of all kinds. Founded by Jim Haynes, the building held a gallery, theatre, bookshop, restaurant, and cinema.

The Arts Lab cinema, then programmed by David Curtis, began with daily screenings of classic European and American cinema by directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and John Cassavettes. It was the first venue in England to show uncut versions of Andy Warhol's 2-screen film Chelsea Girls (1966) and Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954-66).

A more consistent programme of avant-garde films and open screenings of new work began at the Arts Lab under Curtis following the closure of the Better Books bookshop in August 1967, when the London Filmmakers Co-operative screenings were transferred to the Lab. This emphasis on avant-garde cinema was intensified by the exposure to the international avant-garde movement experienced by Curtis and other LFMC members at the Knokke Experimental Film Festival in December of 1967 and also by P Adams Sitney's comprehensive touring programme of the American avant-garde - New American Cinema which was shown at the NFT in 1968. During this period the Arts Lab hosted significant screenings by key filmmakers associated with film movements in Britain: for example in July 1968, Peter Gidal and an expanded show by Jeff Keen in August 1968.

With the arrival of Malcolm Le Grice and Ben Yahya at the Arts Lab in 1968, the building of film processing facilities began at the centre. Also during that year both Curtis and Le Grice became more involved with promoting production within the LFMC and were appointed 'officer' positions in the organisation.

In October 1969 a New Arts Lab, more formally known as IRAT (Institute for Research in Art and Technology) opened on Robert Street, Camden Town, in a former chemical factory, with a screening of David Larcher's Mare's Tail (1969). This new lab, in addition to housing theatre, gallery and cinema space, also provided a base for the LFMC distribution office, screening and a newly equipped film workshop with a step printer and neg/reversal processor.

James Harding

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