“If Only I Had More Time”. The Secret Cinema/Back To The Future Debacle

“If only I had more time”, says Marty McFly just before he time travels back to 1985 in the cult classic Back To The Future. However, that’s what Secret Cinema founder, Fabien Riggal, will also be saying after performances were scrapped at criminally late notice this week.

As I type this I should be on a train heading down to London for tonight’s performance. As it is I have a return ticket that will go unused so I will end up £33 lighter in the pocket. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. 

While I thought my obsession for the film was a healthy one (it still ranks as my guilty, Friday night with nothing to do, pleasure) I didn’t catch a plane to attend nor booked time off work. My prom outfit was bought from charity shops yet I was genuinely excited to go. That sensation has ebbed to a gruelling disappointment and a deep sense of suspicion and disenchantment.

Marketing for the film has been titillating, from the emails hinting of an immersive set capturing Hill Valley circa 1955 in all its kitsch glory. From the diner, the frock shops and the cinema it seemed like stepping back in time, it looked incredible. Yet the more emails I got the further worried I became, particularly the HTML emails which seemed to hide important links like the actual meeting point (pretty crucial guys). You were instructed to bring props as if you were employed by a Hill Valley business and many seem to have received correspondence which picked which business for you, I didn’t. Unforgivably there were typos; ‘Enchanted Under The Sea Prom’, misnamings; postings from headmaster Stanford Strickland when his first name is actually Siegfried. The warning signs were there.

Thursday’s cancellation came as a shock. I was aware that you were not allowed to bring mobile phones yet so many public events allow them with discretion. Actual cinemas allow you to take your mobile phone in under the premise that you switch it off. Theatres and libraries have the same issue but not the same problem. I could have quite easily left mine in my pocket, I’m a grown man, I don’t need to Instagram every thing I see no matter how cool it looks. After some delving apparently there is an issue regarding the legality of a company taking your phone off you which makes you wonder if they had logistics in place to securely look after thousands of mobile phones and a system to hand them back. Then there’s belongings to think about. I also wanted to ask if there were changing facilities to suit up before the prom yet that was the least of my worries.

There’s a charm in enticing the customer with a website that includes answering phone messages from characters in the film but the actual logistics of the event seem to have been forgotten. Were there seats for the screening? Was there a separate email for friends of the ticket-holder to make their own Hill Valley ID? What was the point of making a Facebook alias? Why only use Facebook when not everyone clicks to attend events (only 15,000 bothered out of 86,000) so not everyone would get the updates? If you cannot take your phone how would you know if the event was cancelled if you only announce it 90 minutes before?

That final point really takes some believing. Not only that but an official announcement was due at 11am on Friday morning, another deadline that was missed. At this point I decided not to travel on the Saturday morning whether it was cancelled or not, despite receiving an email asserting that Hill Valley was ready to receive customers. There was still a lack of specific reasons as to why there were cancellations which is particularly galling and only lead to online speculation. The set wasn’t ready, there were H&S concerns, the fire service hadn’t given the exits the all-clear. No-one knew and the statement didn’t give any answers. “Unfortunately, we have experienced some difficulties and have had to cancel tonight along with the remainder of this first weekend and plan to re-open next Thursday 31 July.” Secret Cinema’s motto is ‘Secret audience. Secret locations. Secret Worlds. Tell No One’ which they seem to have taken a little too literally.

As it were an email arrived at around 6pm meaning that I knew not to go down. It makes you wonder, if they knew there were problems why did they not decide to cancel the first week sooner and let people know so hotels bookings could be cancelled and transport tickets transferred. I’ve begrudgingly decided to give them another chance and attend on 29th August when you would hope any issues were straightened out but I’m not holding my breath. Not when promises were broken and communications were simply not forthcoming.  

All these oversights smack of an over-ambitious naivete and a general feeling that they simply ran out of time, a delicious irony for an event based on a film about time travel.


Training log – 1. Summary so far (9 weeks til Race Day)

As some of you may be aware, I go running several mornings a week. For one, it prevents me feeling too guilty about a slice of homemade cheesecake or the odd beer (or five). It also sets up goals for me to run towards, quite literally.

In nine weeks time I’ll be running the BUPA Great Yorkshire 10k run around Sheffield. This will be the third time I have participated and I’m quietly hoping I can beat my previous time of 54:55. It’ll be tough but for the past few weeks I’ve started training in earnest following a slight ankle injury. 

Training effectively began in January when, for a couple of months, I had been sporadically attending a boxing class which is an intense 40 minute workout that left me aching for a couple of days. My arms would be weak and my shoulders would barely move without a numb pain, eventually I realised my back was suffering so relented before doing myself some real damage. However, I took various pieces of advice onboard and now do some stomach exercises most mornings. It’s nothing much – 30 sit-ups, 30 crunches, 3 sets of 3 x 30 seconds leg lifts (6″ up then at 45 and 90 degrees) and 2 sets of 30 seconds planking. While my belly remains my legs do feel stronger meaning that I can push harder on hills.

Then the real training – my actual running. In the past six weeks I have completed five Park Runs, which isn’t bad when you consider how nervous I was first time around and how difficult Saturday mornings are for me generally. This is a 5k run round Endcliffe Park in Sheffield which involves runners of all ages and levels. The experience has given my training a competitive edge as only someone who has run a race can tell you how good it feels to overtake an apparently fitter looking runner (most of them for me) and finish strongly. My times have improved too with a new personal best each week, from 27:19 to 26:55, 26:54, 26:33, 26:06. 

In addition to that I also do two long-ish runs every week which usually take 40 – 48 minutes taking in either Forge Dam or Ecclesall Woods. Again, I’m averaging under 6 minutes per kilometre so there hasn’t been any discernible slacking despite the tricky routes. Fun Fact: Sheffield can claim to have at least one thing in common with Rome, seven hills, though it always seems like more. 

This week I have begun drinking a litre of detox water daily as I’m often being told I don’t drink enough fluids. There isn’t much to it, just some ice, water and wedges of lemon, lime, grapefruit and cucumber. Again, I’m not really sure what good it’s doing but the intention is there, as it always is


So many got and yet so many still needed. The Panini World Cup Stickers Conundrum

We are into the finishing strait here people. The World Cup Final is this Sunday yet I still have gaps to fill in my sticker album. Only a few gaps yet if I gave up now and simply handed my pile of doubles to a second cousin few could blame me. As I flick through my album the opening logos and stadiums pages are complete and looking, frankly, glorious. If anything, I should be congratulated for not succumbing to the temptation of buying more packets.

The past few weeks have been tortuous for finding swaps and my efforts have been reduced to swapping one or two stickers at a time. A few weeks ago I swapped around 15 stickers with two friends of mine from Australia while this week I sent a single sticker to Ireland in exchange for another, albeit a shiney. With the cost of stamps this is getting kinda silly. I COULD take the easy option and order each individual remaining sticker for 14p each but having come this far that seems a cheap way out, especially with the remaining pile of doubles.

Oh yeh, that horrible, lingering load of doubles. The stern face of Russia’s Roman Shirokov still stares back at me from the bottom of the pile. He has been sat there for around two months and I simply cannot get rid of him. Plus who needs one Sulley Muntari, let alone three!? All this and I still haven’t got #32, the Brazilian logo shiney.

Help a brother out –

Doubles – 2, 19, 79, 80, 84, 97, 216, 232, 233, 240, 245, 326, 376, 377, 383, 384, 391, 517, 532×2, 537×3, 542, 544, 611

Needs – 32, 142, 152, 159, 260, 287, 303, 338, 402, 446, 459, 465, 471, 546, 580, 583, 591, 621, 628


More top, top World Cup Moments

Some moments have not been altogether that surprising. Lionel Messi is almost expected to lead Argentina to glory in a Maradona revisited-esque role and for large parts of their games his support actors have disappointed. Against ‘plucky’ (there simply isn’t a more patronising yet more suitable word for it is there) Iran they toiled and rarely troubled. This suited me fine having pulled out the Middle Easterns in the office sweepstake. Indeed, that day I did some research having read an interview with their coach, former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Quieroz. This was conducted by one of my favourite writers, Andy Mitten, in the summer special of United fanzine, United We Stand. It was an engaging read involving the pressures set by their federation and how poor their preparation was going into the tournament. Thus, my expectations that they could pull of a result were slim to none. Having watched it at a family BBQ I barely paid attention and kept returning to the screen expecting Argentina to have scored. Then I sat down and waited, and waited. With the score remaining goalless going into stoppage time it seemed only a hideous mistake or a piece of genius was to make the difference. Up stepped Lionel Messi.

Messi, the savour against Iran (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Messi, the savour against Iran (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty)

There always seems to be certain moments of disgrace that mar a World Cup. The Hand of God in 1986, Luis Suarez’s handball then celebration in 2010. For this World Cup (at least so far) that moment has been provided by Suarez (him again) with another trademark bite. Having watched the game between Italy and Uruguay, like many I did not realise what had happened for a good five minutes. Surely he hadn’t done it again, oh, he had. No-one saw it coming, well, apart from Thomas Syversen, a Norwegian living in Trondheim, who staked money on it. By the end of the game the memes were coming thick and fast with many wondering what goes through a man’s head when he goes to bite.

Luis Suarez, looking like a guilty boy at school (Photo by Giorgio Chiellini/EPA)

Luis Suarez, looking like a guilty boy at school (Photo by Giorgio Chiellini/EPA)


Another moment of utter disgrace that no-one else has noticed, or indeed cared about, came in the France v Switzerland game. With the game deep into stoppage time France were already 5-2 up and cruising when the ball was laid to Karim Benzema. Then the referee suffered a brain fade similar to Clive Thomas’ infamous decision to deny Zico what would have been the winning goal from a corner in a 1978 World Cup match against Sweden. You can hear the final whistle as the pass is played to which Benzema clinically dispatches the shot. Why the referee cannot wait until the ball is in the middle third or out of play is beyond me. It is a ludicrous decision not at all simply because I have Benzema in my fantasy team.

Into the knockout stages now and the first second round game between Brazil and Chile promised much but descended into a nervy, tense affair. The players didn’t know whether to stick or twist and I was stuck wondering when I should leave to catch an evening train. Thankfully I managed to remain until the end of extra time yet had Mauricio Pinilla’s shot been an inch lower I wouldn’t have had to jog to the station. There has been a nervousness in each Brazil match that comes with a home nation expected to win and a young team desperate to meet those high expectations. There  are also the demons of 1950 to eradicate and the fear that the host nation will blow it again. As Pinilla let fly a nation, if not a global audience of millions, held it’s breath. I thought it was in but for the sake of the competition it was a relief to see it crash off the crossbar. Pinilla has since had an epic tattoo done of the moment.

Pinilla hits the crossbar (Photo by AP)

Pinilla hits the crossbar (Photo by AP)

No-one really knows why but the sight of a ball crashing against the woodwork then hitting the back of the net looks so good. Somehow it looks more visceral, more brutal, more aesthetically pleasing than it going straight in. This is probably why I have saved my favourite moment to last. If there is such a thing as a £40m breakthrough talent then James Rodriguez is just that. I was walking down Deansgate to a friend’s party in Manchester when I glanced through the window of yet another pretentious bar. Fake tans, plucked eyebrows and glow in the dark skirts flooded my eyeline yet I managed to see the ball drop out of the sky then Rodriguez swivel and dispatch a stunning goal. Come the final itself it might not be the best goal but for me there is something primal about such a glorious goal, something indescribable that you simply have to stand back and applaud. Even if you are standing outside a bar and rushing to a friend’s house with a four-pack of lagers.
NB – I’m aware the link doesn’t contain a video of the goal (thanks FIFA) yet the commentary does the goal justice.


Top, top World Cup Moments

The opening goal by Paul Pogba against Nigeria was the 146th of this World Cup, that is already more than the total from South Africa four years ago. My memory of that World Cup is hazy as not a lot really happened apart from Suarez’s handball and celebration against Ghana (surely his behaviour had improved), Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany (surely there’d be goal-line technology this time, Sepp) and deserved last-minute glory for Spain. So much has already happened in this World Cup that it hasn’t even finished and it is being heralded as one of the finest in living memory. This could be down to several reasons; a change in mindset and the death of ‘tika taka’, which was laid to rest on 13th June 2014 in Salvador, being an obvious one. Perhaps it is down to the more reliable Brazuca ball actually hitting its intended target instead of mimicking the flight of a beach ball. The second round has just been completed and there have been several memorable moments so far, here are a few of my favourites. Sometimes you have a moment in a match where everything changes, when all that seemed true and righteous suddenly dissolves before your very eyes. The signs were there that football had moved on from ‘tika taka’ ever since Bayern Munich ripped Barcelona apart 7-0 on aggregate in the 2013 Champions League semi-finals. However, Spain were still being talked about as potential winners of this World Cup, albeit in hushed tones. It took 44 minutes for that expectation to be gazumped. Dutch left-back Daley Blind had already shown Spain to be shaky to a well-aimed long ball and another found Robin van Persie through on goal. Many strikers would have brought the ball down, aimed and shot but the Flying Dutchman has such technique and nous that he made the diving header look effortless. The Netherlands were to run out 5-1 winners, the World Champions were on their way home.

The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman (Photo by Getty)

“Anticipation has a habit to set you up, for disappoint”, so sang Alex Turner in ‘The View From The Afternoon’. It’s also a line that brings to mind England World Cup campaigns. For once, the expectation was patted down as England were placed in a difficult group with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy. Many expected the opening game in Group G to be a tepid affair due to the sapping conditions in Manaus yet England actually came out and attacked with a verve and energy rarely seen since 1996. Of course, Italy punctured that early enterprise with a typically considered set piece. Still, England came forward and equalised with a sublime goal; Raheem Sterling feeding Wayne Rooney on the left and an inch-perfect cross found Daniel Sturridge who tapped in from close range. All downhill from there though as England eventually limped home bottom of their group.

Daniel Sturridge celebrates his goal against Italy

Daniel Sturridge celebrates his goal against Italy (Photo by Telegraph.co.uk)

Part of me wonders whether Pepe is simply from a bygone era of mindlessness on a football pitch. Back in the early 90’s you could hack a sprightly attacker from behind, stamp on his goolies and get away with it. In 2014 that gains you a lengthy ban and a Daily Mail expose on how no-one is thinking of the children watching this depravity at 5pm. Germany ran out comfortable 4-0 winners yet it may have been less brutal had Pepe not gotten himself sent off in the first half. Alas, Portugal left Brazil with Cristiano Ronaldo still carrying so much hair gel it’d put many traveller’s hand luggage allowance to shame. Had they not lost as heavily to Germany in their opening match they may have squeezed through on goal difference, then again if you have someone as mindless as Pepe in your defence you are always running the risk.

Pepe gets himself sent off against Germany

Pepe gets himself sent off against Germany (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

As a Manchester United fan you could forgive me for being harsh on Marouane Fellaini. For £27m you expect a bit more from a Premier League player than a few bookings and a selection of painfully inept performances. Still, he remains in the squad so I was hoping he would demonstrate some worth on the international stage. With Belgium losing 1-0 to Algeria in their opening group game there were several more dynamic substitutions Marc Wilmots could have made. It all seemed hopelessly desperate, a bit ‘David Moyes’ then the cross came in, Fellaini met it and the ball bounced in off the crossbar. Redemption and maybe a bit of hope he can reproduce such form back in M16.

Fellaini equalises against Algeria

Fellaini equalises against Algeria (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Having witnessed first-hand how mediocre this Australian team could be I expected some tennis scorelines in a group containing Chile, Spain and Holland. They finished bottom with no points yet left with their heads held high following some spirited performances (take note, England). You would be forgiven for thinking that of the Tim Cahill goals I could have picked it would be the ‘worldie’ against the Netherlands, however, that was a 5pm kickoff I missed. Of the 11pm kickoffs I have managed to catch the Chile v Australia game was a welcome surprise. Having gone 0-2 inside 20 minutes I feared the worst but then Cahill scored a trademark header and Australia galvanised. Sure, they eventually lost but against a highly fancied team they arguably deserved a draw. It is weird for Australians to go into a tournament as unfancied so to come out with no points and still feel proud must be a pretty new sensation.

Tim Cahill scores against Chile

Tim Cahill scores against Chile (Photo by AP)