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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor