March 22, 2022
This is what Malisa Chafer has to say about the No.6 Cinema, the hidden gem on the Southsea coast where she sits as volunteer chairwoman.
“The cultural landscape of any society is really vital to keep alive and although we’re a really small outfit we feel we’re a little sort of treasure in Portsmouth.”
Malisa Chafer, No.6 Cinema
Tucked away in the Historic Dockyard on the coast of Portsmouth stands a building still making history as the only independent cinema in the city. I met with Malisa to see the inner workings of the cinema (at her request). She said that it would be worthwhile to see how everything functions there – and it certainly was an intriguing experience.
A wave of excitement came over me at what I was going to discover. Not at all what you would expect to see behind the strong bland walls that encircled it, it almost transcended time. It didn’t feel like you were encompassed at all.
As I walk through the tall walls of the dockyard I was immediately transported, as modern architectural touches mix with centuries-old naval buildings and wide, empty walkways contrast with the hustle and bustle of the nearby city centre I’d just left. Then, tucked in the corner, hidden an unfair amount, this little pocket of movie magic.
No 6 cinema is located in the Grade ll listed Boathouse 6 building, built in 1846. To reach it, you have to walk through the Historic Dockyard’s impressive Victory Gate and on for 50 metres before taking a right turn into College Road – blink and you’ll miss it.
The 275-seater auditorium boasts one of the biggest screens on the south coast and promises an eclectic mixture of classic movies, heritage titles and documentaries in its programme. Highlights in the coming weeks include Death on the Nile, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, Cyrano and Jules et Jim.
The cinema is clearly kept going by people who really care about contributing to the creative background of Portsmouth through cinema. Seeing the screen, standing tall over a hall of absolute atmosphere even when the 275 seats are mostly empty, classic old music playing over the sound system, continued the blend of modern and old fashioned that contributes to the individuality that is No6 Cinema.
The experience of being there, this classic, romanticised experience of cinema, reminds me of going to the theatre. The experience, the building, the art all means so much more.
Malisa Chafer is a happy, creative, passionate woman. In pauses of conversation and moments of thought, my eyes wander to a colourful necklace hanging around her neck which clearly demonstrates an artistic personality. In a half-hour interview, she is rarely hardly lost for things to say about the ways in which cinema – and independent cinema specifically – benefits its audiences.
Malisa shares her thoughts on the brilliant way in which cinema can tell a story or convey a message to an audience. We speak about an exciting upcoming time in which student filmmakers and development in technology bring immense improvement and opportunities.
As Malisa says, it is passionate people keeping cinema and other creative industries alive.
“It’s difficult to know how cinema will evolve,” she says. We agree that in many ways cinema survival is down to younger people, student filmmakers as well as students coming into the cinema. Chafer shares how the cinema endeavours to help student filmmakers however they can, whether screening their films or acting as sources of information and offer younger audiences tickets at the discounted rate of £5.
No.6 Cinema flourishes with the help of many volunteers working together to construct a really enjoyable experience. According to Chafer movies just need to be “quality” films to make it into the programme but the definition of “quality” is not an exact formula.
Malisa speaks of being very pleased and excited when Making Waves Film Festival came to No.6 Cinema regarding a possible partnership. In her mind, it is a big achievement and she is always happy to collaborate with other people.
As Malisa and I sit and converse, I watch as their audience arrives in advance of the night’s movie screening. Couples, friendship groups and even lone viewers sit in the cafe enjoying snacks and drinks and making conversation about such topics as journalism, music and film. The big space is filled with a kind of sophisticated ambience with a fizzing excitement.
Find out more about No.6 Cinema at https://www.no6cinema.co.uk/
By Louisa Clarke