Last Thursday night I swapped my elasticated trackie-daks for a party top and high heels and set off for The Cinema Museum, secreted in deepest SE11, for the launch of Essie Fox’s new novel, The Last Days of Leda Grey. Part of the fun was finding the venue, tucked away as it was, but once found what a treat! The Museum resides in the Master’s House, part of the former Lambeth Workhouse, where Charlie Chaplin spent time as a little boy when his mother faced destitution. Now it’s home to the most incredible collection of everything related to 'going to the pictures', from fixtures and fittings from actual cinemas, to equipment, art work and even uniforms. I managed to get a little bit lost but tagged along behind a couple of other partygoers. We were drawn up the stairs toward the sounds of the party, happily distracted on our way by the abundance of fantastic movie paraphernalia.
The launch felt like stepping into a page from the book. Essie, dressed in gorgeous layers of black lace, introduced Leda to the packed room with a reading. Sepia tinted images of long gone Edwardian beauties flickered across a giant screen. We mingled, drank bubbles, ate cake and canapés, watched a tantalising trailer for the book made by Essie's daughter Letty, heard an original musical composition and soaked up the surroundings.
The book is set in Brightland (Brighton) and begins during the fabled British summer of 1976. A young man, Ed Peters, finds an image in a junk shop of a mesmerising dark haired girl; a forgotten Edwardian actress, Leda Grey. Seduced by the image, Ed's drawn into Leda's world of shadow and mystery, compelled to uncover her long held secrets. It’s a delightfully creepy read as well as an evocative exploration of the early days of British cinema.
It was such a great night. I seem to spend so much time in front of a computer it’s wonderful to be allowed out to meet virtual friends in person! I’m really looking forward to welcoming Essie to Words Away at the Tea House Theatre Cafe, next Spring. Essie will be chatting to Emma Darwin and me about writing historical fiction.