Brexit with bells on


BOP Consulting’s ‘Changing the Scene: The Impact of a Secret Cinema Residency’

As its international reputation has also grown over recent years, Secret Group Ltd, the parent company of the entertainment company Secret Cinema (SC), has also become the focus of various controversies. This has intensified in the last year due to both an award in 2020 of almost £1 million of COVID-19 relief for the arts in England, and a plan to hold its ‘Dirty Dancing’ event in a public green space, Low Hall Fields, in Waltham Forest East London, in the summer of 2021.

Both controversies have attracted vocal and widespread public protests. This is despite SC’s growing international reputation and strong attendance of SC’s events worldwide before the pandemic.

A Bop Consulting report was written in 2017 arguing the case that three of SC’s shows in 2015 and 2016 left a positive impact in Canada Water, but the report presents insubstantial evidence of this. It’s therefore hard to critique SC’s arguments.

  • The 26 page report only talks about Canada Water on pages 18 & 19, and states that SC introduced £2.8 million in Gross Value Added additional spending, and ‘negligible’ jobs and GVA through wages and suppliers. This does not appear to be a ringing endorsement by its consultants of Secret Cinema’s positive impact resulting from a two year residency.
  • Divided between Canada Water’s 27 200 residents, that’s £47.80 a year. Secret Cinema’s CEO Max Alexander claims they leave a positive impact behind. Waltham Forest residents could reasonably ask whether £47.80 a year per person (assuming this was the benchmark, based on his own evidence) is worth losing the use of a public green field for 3 months. (There are questions about Waltham Forest Council’s transparency in handling resident’s objections about these environmental considerations, and concerns about the consultation process generally.)
  • Secret Cinema’s CEO Max Alexander presented the study as evidence that they “left a positive legacy”. It took 3 years to publish, and only then when there was a PR problem, and it contains a single data point. Either Bop couldn’t find other supportive evidence for the claim of a positive legacy, or didn’t go looking for it.