By Hazel Tsoi-Wiles
Rich Mix is the right name for this place: this cheerful combined-use building is a cinema, live-music venue, gallery, café and theatre all under one roof. The programming is eclectic but not obscure or exclusive; the Rich Mix ethos is to offer something for everyone—making its threatened closure all the more distressing. So what does this place offer the community? It screens the latest Hollywood blockbuster on one floor (in 2D or 3D) with an experimental dance piece in full flow on another, while the bar is packed for a mixed bill of poetry readings and live funk music from Ghana. There are family events to look out for, ranging from twice-monthly music and dance sessions for toddlers to magical interactive theatre shows for school-age children. And the Parents and Babies cinema screenings are worth noting: this is a venue that has not given up on you just because you have kids.
Indi-Go, the Rich Mix café, is a clean, bright and welcome place to go for coffee and a sandwich; it’s nice to know there is somewhere this straightforward and child-friendly in among the try-hard artisan cafés of Shoreditch. The food falls into two categories: decent café fare such as baked potatoes, paninis and wraps, all presented nicely and served in the airy, spacious dining area. Or, for bigger, more adventurous appetites, there is the other menu based on Indian street food, and this is where Indi-Go really shines. I abandoned all plans to feed my son from the kids’ menu and myself from the salad list when I realised I could have an Indian bento box (pictured) for £9.95. The amount of choice for that price was impressive and sampling a bit of everything kept my hungry boy happy—happier than he might have been with the limited choice of things with fries he could have had from the disappointing kids’ menu. It’s a good-value place to eat (for Shoreditch) with lots of seating and a quiet, calm atmosphere even on a Saturday lunchtime.
Locals make good use of the cinema, catching the latest films at prices that wouldn’t buy you a handful of popcorn in the West End. There is a huge emphasis on young people (16 to 25) taking part in performing arts and music through the annual Rich Mix Youth Takeover festival. And while the art we saw on our visit seemed a bit half-hearted, hanging on the mezzanine walls between cinema screens, it was good to know there is such an open, friendly, mixed-use cultural space like this in east London. Come for lunch, stay for a film then chill out with a drink and a stroll around the open art spaces—it’s a great place to visit with the kids and, since Rich Mix is not immune to its trendy Shoreditch surroundings, it’s even better without them.
Want to keep Rich Mix around? They have begun a petition where members of the community can speak out against its closure—which is because of a demand for full, lump-sum debt-repayment by Tower Hamlets Council. For now, you’ll find Rich Mix at 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road. Sign the petition, check out Indi-Go’s menu, or see what’s on at Rich Mix’s website.