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It really was The Greatest Show, man!

Tuesday 11 September 2018, 19:23
By Dave Smith

The growing crowd at Wincanton's first outdoor cinema

On Saturday 1st September, Wincanton was host to what must have been its first ever public outdoor cinema event, and what an event it was! Ask anyone who was there and they'll surely agree, it was quite something to behold.

The film, winner of a community poll during the run up to the event, was The Greatest Showman (12A); the recent and critically acclaimed, family-friendly musical starring Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron.

The organisers expected about 500 people to attend Wincanton Recreation Ground for the show, but estimates on the night were in the region of 900 and up. Was it the choice of film or the novel event format that attracted the crowds? Perhaps both. We may never know. We'll just have to do it again!

Wincanton's very own marketing and design company Bobcat Media was able to provide the audio-visual hardware and expertise to put on the show, including a high-power projector, speakers and a very large screen supported by an ingenius inflatable frame. Based in the Camelot Centre just off the High Street, up the steps behind Papertrees, the guys at Bobcat are keen to hear from anyone who would like to take advantage of their impressive kit, and experience.

The screen was errected (inflated?) in the cemetery corner of the main green, overlooking the rest of the grounds from atop the elevated area. It was easily visable to the crowd sitting below, as well as people arriving from both the car park and Morrisons directions.

Chilling before the film, waiting for friends and family to arrive

People started arriving from late afternoon to claim their spot at the foot of the screen, and generally chilled there throughout the evening until the show began. Some waiting for friends and family to join them, others using the excess open space to entertain themselves. Top 20 music helped develop the party atmosphere from early evening, and could surely be heard through the town.

The crowd slowly grew as 9pm approached, at which time the show was introduced, and Sam Atherton, Wincanton's Town Clerk, was publically honoured for her effort and diligence in organising the event. Then the sun went out and the film came on. Or something like that.

The weather was ideal; comfortably warm, dry, and the sky clear enough to reveal both Jupiter and Mars overhead amongst the stars.

Far off to the left of the screen and viewing area, beyond earshot of power generators, were the food vendors. Supporting the event were the Bootmakers Workshop from Wincanton's Market Place, serving candy floss as well as crepes with Nutella, banana, strawberries and cream, Ciao Bella from Templecombe, serving wood fired pizza at their first ever event, and of course, Cale Park Kitchen, the brand new permanent feature of the recreation ground, who stayed open late especially to offer an American "drive-thru" menu, and even walked amongst the audience selling popcorn throughout the show. There was supposed to be a Pimm's and Prosecco bar but, alas, they were unable to attend.

Aside from the food vendors and £534 of charitable donations through the Winky Kicks Cancer stall and representatives, the event was completely free for all to attend, and fully licensed, enabling everyone to bring their own food and drink, relax and enjoy the atmosphere without worrying about unnecessary rules and restrictions. It could be argued that without this liberal approach, including free entry, the event would have achieved only a fraction of its success.

Feedback at, and since the event has been almost unanimously positive. People have been saying things like, "I've never seen anthing like it in all the years I've lived in Wincanton", and "I met up with friends I haven't seen in years". Not only did the evening have great entertainment value, but the concept seems to be a boost to community spirit as well. The kind of stuff that makes it all worth while, and certainly something to consider for a annual addition to the Town's event calendar.

Bobcat Media's entertainment system

After the show, the Wincanton Town Council groundsmen reported that attendees had been remarkably respectful, both of the grounds and of one another. There were no significant incidents reported, litter was relatively minimal and even the younger folk were witnessed making good use of the bins provided. Three portaloos were hired and positioned in the far corner of the green, opposite the screen. At the end of the evening it was observed that even these were in remarkably good condition, much to the relief of those tasked with dunny duty.

The sustainability of this event has been boosted in large part by the last-minute decision to sell on-screen advertising, helping to recover about half the total cost of the event. The advertisers were very enthusiastic, and some even came to the beginning of the show just to photograph their ads on the screen. It's possible future events could become entirely self-financing. Stalls and vendors could be multiplied, and pitch fees introduced.

The open green space at the recreation ground is a good deal larger than that required by an audience for the size of screen that was used. Even with the majority of the audience seated, there remains enough space for a range of additional activities to take place during the hours leading up to the start of the film. With this in mind, it's possible future events could be planned with full-day programmes.

It's all over, for now, but brainstorming for next year has already begun. Get in touch if you have any ideas!

[FURTHER READING:] Annoucement, and how it all began.


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