Nudge, nudge: Python supports ushers striking for the living wage

Brixton Ritzy management for the first time staged a screening during a walkout

Cinemagoers attending a screening at one of the most successful – and left-leaning – arthouse venues in Britain on Sunday night had to pass a picket line of staff demanding the London Living Wage.

Ticket sellers and ushers at the Brixton Ritzy in south London have been striking every Sunday for  three months, but last night the protests intensified as management for the first time staged a screening during a walkout.

As a result, anyone hoping to see a live streaming of Monty Python’s live show from the O2 Arena was confronted by a protest swiftly nicknamed “Monty Python’s Flying Picket”.

The Ritzy – normally a middle-class haven where customers enjoy documentaries and arthouse films – was last night hidden behind metal screens erected, in the words of a grim-faced manager, “to make for a more comfortable experience for our customers”.

Anyone wishing to enter had to go through a narrow opening in the screens and pass a picket line of staff waving banners and chanting slogans.

The Monty Python screening was advertised with the tagline “Always look on the bright side of life” – but the strikers surrounding the cinema had just hours earlier received the backing of one of the Pythons themselves.

Urging his fans to stay away from the Ritzy screening, Terry Jones tweeted: “Python fans.  Ask for your money back for Ritzy Cinema Brixton.  The management are refusing to pay the staff Minimum London Wage.”

Jones added his voice to 7,000 people who have already signed a petition supporting the strikers in their demand for the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour.  Signatories include the comedian Russell Brand, footballer turned actor Eric Cantona, and film makers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. 

It was a far cry from the Eighties, when the Brixton Ritzy was considered so synonymous with left-leaning causes that the then manager had to place an advert in a local newspaper telling potential customers that not every film shown was “left-wing or gay”.

As strikers chanted slogans on the other side of the metal screens, Lyn Goleby, the managing director of Picturehouse Cinemas, which owns the Ritzy, insisted her staff were getting a good deal on £7.53 an hour plus £1 if customer service targets are met.

She said: “We are one of the highest-paying cinema operators in London.  Only about 250-odd companies signed up for the London Living Wage, and you won’t find many cinemas and retailers among them. It’s not viable for these kinds of businesses.” She claimed only four people had phoned to cancel their tickets, “and only one specifically said it was in support of the strike”.

But Rob Lugg,  a Ritzy usher and Bectu  union representative, who organised the strike, pointed out that Picturehouse’s latest accounts report “an excellent year” with a “significant increase” in operating profits to £1.3m.

One customer ignoring the strikers was Jessica, who said: “I feel uncomfortable about crossing a picket line and I have sympathy with their cause, but this was not any old film. It’s a live event and it’s a special birthday treat for my 11-year-old son, who is a massive Python fan.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee