SO.CO Team

1 month ago

A Weekend At The Launderette With The Lake Poets & Martha Hill

Durham City's quirkiest venue is a world away from the usual scuzzy, grimey gig venues of a similar size. It has to be, because whilst by evening it hosts some of the most interesting gigs in the North of England, by day it is a working (and very busy) launderette.

Martin Longstaff of The Lake Poets performs at The Old Cinema Launderette

 

The Old Cinema Launderette is a hidden gem. Located on the outskirts of Durham City, it's a venue like no other, with a fascinating history. The building originally housed the Crescent Cinema from 1928, was taken over by Rex Theatres in 1941, and finally closed its doors in 1958 following a screening of the Eagle Squadron, starring Robert Stack. It now plays host to some of the most interesting gigs in the region, including last weekend’s stripped back sets by The Lake Poets and Martha Hill. 

Martha Hill performs at The Old Cinema Launderette

Friday night saw Martin Longstaff of Sunderland favourites The Lake Poets open the weekend's proceedings. The set leaned heavily on material from his 2015, Dave Stewart produced, debut album, but also featuring a number of new tracks which suggest a follow-up might be on the way.  

Martin Longstaff of The Lake Poets performs at The Old Cinema Launderette

Whilst Martin may be renowned for being somewhat dour in his songwriting, his onstage demeanour is self-deprecating yet always warm. It's an essential comfort blanket when the music features stories of heartbreak, death and physical abuse. The music pulls no punches, but there are wonderful moments of lightness in the gloom. It gives the set a cathartic, spiritual feel which, whilst saddening, also uplifts in equal measure. 

Martha Hill performs at The Old Cinema Launderette

Saturday belonged to Martha Hill and her band, stopping off mid-tour for a much quieter show than normal. The stripped back nature of the set suited the material from her new EP, Dog Hearted Man, superbly. The quieter arrangements allowed the songwriting to come to the fore, and Martha's voice to really shine. 

Martha Hill performs at The Old Cinema Launderette

Performances such as this are where The Old Cinema Launderette really shines. The venue (and its clientele) allows, appreciates and rewards experimentation, and gives artists room to try new things. It's why this 55 capacity room regularly hosts, and obviously sells out, shows by artists who could easily book much bigger, and potentially more lucrative, shows. It might help that they can do their tour laundry at the same time, though. 

Words and photos by Thomas Jackson