The Triangle Cinema – Gosta Green, Birmingham

[Update – December 2012: I was sad to read that Peter Walsh, who featured in the video below, has passed away. Not only was Peter really helpful to us at the time we were making the video, allowing us access to all areas of the Triangle buildings, but through his programming of the Triangle Cinema effectively opened my eyes to the joys of non-mainstream and world cinema. Ian at Flatpack has written a short piece about him as well.]

After much searching I have at last found the video I made in about 1988 about the Triangle Cinema in Gosta Green, Birmingham. I can’t fathom why there is so little is writen about this place during its Birmingham Arts Lab period in the 1970s or later, when I used to go there, as The Triangle. It was originally a cinema and in the late 1960s a TV studio for the BBC.

The video was produced whilst I was a trainee at a place called Handsworth Viewpoint about which I may write more at some point.

There is a longer version of this video somewhere, I’m sure it was about 10 minutes long. This is a 5 minute version which was on a VHS video labelled ‘Dave Harte showreel’. The other stuff on the showreel hasn’t really stood the test of time – this at least has some historical interest and a top soundtrack by Big Audio Dynamite:

30 thoughts on “The Triangle Cinema – Gosta Green, Birmingham

  1. Pingback: Created in Birmingham » Links for June 24th

  2. What do you mean the OTHER stuff hasn’t stood the test of time. this is great – just for the clothes, and VHS ness. please please lets see more from Dave Harte’s Show reel. and i do mean it. I AM interested. archive is the new black

  3. This is great stuff; thanks for posting it. Many of the characters behind the Arts Lab have remained as backers and players locally, often behind the scenes. The Arts Lab movement’s time has come – I’d love to do a show on it! I recently put together the retrospective on the MAC (see link) with my friend Rob Hewitt. Please post any more gems like this!

  4. They should bring back the Artlab. It started off my interest in Indie cinema and film making generally. I’m sure a similarly sized World/Indie cinema in the same location would do well with all the students around there. Plus its an extra option for the rest of us. We need more indie venues…

  5. Thanks for these comments. I too learnt about non-mainstream cinema at the Triangle so there’s lots of memories wrapped up in this short film.

    Toby:I like the notion that there is something about their ‘VHS-ness’ as well as the other aspects that you mentions. I will indeed make further plunges into the archive I think.

    General point: watching them again reminds me of how enabling video technology was in the 1980s. I used to shoot Super 8 film but with video – wow, you could shoot on a 3 hour tape, edit quite simply, even add titles with a computer thingy. This was technology that let us be producers of television as well as consumers. As enabling in fact as digital technologies feel today.


  6. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery hosted a show about the history of the Arts Lab, which ran from 28th March – May 1998. There was a catalogue, “Birmingham Arts Lab: The Phantom of Liberty”, which I expect the Local Studies dept. of the Central Library will be able to dig out for those who are interested. It’d be a nice step, towards gathering the material needed to write a much-needed ‘history of art-making in Birmingham’, if someone could scan it and place it online.

  7. Sorry to lower the intellectual tone…..but .that jumper tucked into trousers at 0.19 secs takes me back a bit!

  8. Crikey, that is a blast from the past. I knew Pete from when I worked at the Film & TV Festival. He’s now at the Irish Film Institute as cinema manager. As for that 1998 exhibition, the Festival contributed various things and I vaguely remember that Roger Shannon might now have them. Shame that after all these years Birmingham is still without a cinema like the Triangle.

  9. that takes me back. the whole area seems lacklustre now compared to the vibrancy of the drunken children who thronged the area from the sacks to the black horse. the old union mill has gone too.
    i saw reservoir dogs there, when tarantino was ‘new’

  10. i was working on the last ever filmshow at the triangle… thus ended my couple of years worth of education in cult films and beligerant ticket-cashiers(not naming any names… but at the end of the night he crawled down the hole where the takings went, to sleep…)
    happy times, and some great films as well as kenneth branagh ones…)

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  12. Hi Dave.
    I am currently doing some research on arts lab for a project I am developing with a gallery in Birmingham. I am keen to get in touch with people who were involved in Arts Lab, particularly those working with Film and Video. I am based in London but would be really keen to learn more about the organisation, how it functioned and who was involved. Please get in touch if you would be willing to take a trip down memory lane.

  13. Lovely to see this old footage – I worked at the Triangle from when it was the Arts & Media Centre in ’87 to its closure in ’94 as a cinema. I have many fond memories of the Studio and cinema.

  14. I dont think anyone has mentioned this fact, but it was also (very rarely) used as a concert venue and quite why it didnt have much more success is astounding. I only saw one band there and that was The Three Johns in either 87 or 88 (supported by local band The Renegades) Unless time has blurred my recolection, it was a huge venue with a decent soundsystem, so why it never took off in the way the Academy did is a mystery.

  15. correction—-gosta green television studio was in use by the bbc in the late 1950s –not the late 1960s as stated. i worked there then and have many photographs of the studio in action.many live network drama productions came from there in the 50s directed by the legendary peter dews. in1964 it became the home for the football serial united.

  16. Great piece of local history. Dave Full Circle via MACE would gladly transfer film/video footage into DVD format. Remind me next week and I’ll tell you more about it.
    Alan – it WAS a great concert venue, went to a number of gigs there, Balaam & the Angel stands out in my mind. No idea why it wasn’t used more as a venue, all the ingredients were there, great sound, mid size venue, pubs next door, students and so on. Very strange

  17. Hi

    I have found in some old deeds that my ancestor died and in his will left an old cinema in Gosta Green, Birmingham in 1947.

    Does this cinema you refer to date from before this time, or must it have been another one?

    I dont know Birmingham or Gosta Green at all well I am afriad, im from Yorkshire!

    Best regards


  18. Blimey this is a blast from the past! I too worked at the Triangle in the mid-late 80s when Birmingham was struggling and the country was in depression (bit like now come to think of it). My office was in a former shop on the left of the building overlooking Gosta Green…a nice location to watch the students sitting on the grass enjoying their grants (those were the days). Strangely the office had a stable door, which meant in the summer we opened the bottom half so we had fresh air but anyone wanting to talk to us had to bend down in a rather comic way. Years later I found the door keys in an old suitcase. Don’t laugh.

    It was one of my first jobs and I remember the struggle to keep West Midlands Arts and the University speaking (from totally different ideological perspectives…unsuccessful, naturally). I fondly remember the Woody Allen season and the regular French films programmed by Pete who was expert in that field.

    The studio was fantastic and the Hi Dive cabaret (including a young Julian Clarey), gigs (including I seem to remember Courteny Pine) were a highlight. TheatreFoundry did a play – Can’t Pay Won’t Pay.

    The Sacks of Potatoes pub next door was my second home and I think I had two meals a day there for almost a year – lovely hot food (our own cafe was horrible)..

    The location (‘remote’…though hardly) made it difficult to sell, and the internal politics were feverish for such a small place (although perhaps that was the problem).

    I remember researching the history of the building. It had started as a cinema when the area was residential and had ‘the world’s first’ air conditioning (water fountains in the auditorium). It was a BBC TV studio and Top of the Pops once came from there. Then there was boxing. And the Arts Lab. etc.

    Frank Skinner was a volunteer at the cinema – then called Chris Collins (Frank ,that is ,not the cinema). I remember him as a funny and really nice guy. This was long before the fame of Three Lions. Where did it all go wrong Chris, eh?

  19. I was a regular at the Triangle cinema and still have lots of cinema programmes from that time. Also remember standing next to Julian Cope at a Woodentops gig there, his brother was in the support band.
    I remember Frank Skinner talking about The Triangle at the XXXX cabaret too and his comment that there was a sign that said ‘Strictly No Smoking’, he found the adjective amusing.

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  21. Stumbled across this website whilst looking at arts venues in Birmingham, as I am planning a return visit this summer.
    I was a student at Aston 83-87 and in what was basically then a technical college, albeit a good one. There was a lack of arts in any shape or form on teh campus. Having returned from a year in France where students behaved, well, like students, Aston was relatively docile. I remember the coach trips to parliament to demonstrate agianst one thing or another (ie. Thatcher) were usually full of shoppers or students going to a musical.
    I am sure Greg was the name of the person running the centre in 83/84 and for some reason, together with an equally young and naive musician friend of mine we made a team of three trying to get students involved in the Traingle. It may have been you Chris (rather than Greg) as I remember very well the Woody Allen season and all those French films that I lapped up. My friend and I also played the Triangle a few times (the bar) before moving (up?) to the Union Mill.
    For whatever reason, neither Aston students nor the Birmingham Poly (Art and design) never really used the Triangle and there were few other events going on at the time, the odd gig, and I remember one student group staging a musical there (Grease?) in 1987, but otherwise there was little activity in the mid 80’s.
    Good to hear about that it took advantage of the comedy wave in the late 80’s but sad overall to think it declined altogether. I will still visit it with happy memories but a hint of regret as although I think the economy then was even worse than it is now, I can’t help thinking that if the opportunity was offerred again now someone could have made a real go of the Triangle and have kept it in business.
    In the meantime, thanks Dave for the excellent film and to you and others for rekindling the memories.

  22. I was a part time projectionist from about 1979 to 1984 (off and on when I wasn’t at University). I worked with Gerry Gradwell who was the senior projectionist. I helped out on a film made by Yugesh Singh Walia who made a couple of films at the Arts Lab and won an award for one of them. Rumour has it he went off to make films in Bollywood – I don’t know if that is true but good luck to him if he did! I remember Dennis Hopper hanging out there for a week when there was a Dennis Hopper season running, I also met the Canadian Ambassador when there was a Canadian film season. A great place.

  23. I worked at the Triangle cinema in 92/93 as a volunteer usherette whilst studying for my MSc. Many happy memories of the place and like others it opened my eyes to international cinema. I remember a character called Dave Hutch who seemed to know literally everything about arthouse cinema. I used to see him at the Electric in later years but moved away from Birmingham 10+ years ago.

  24. I used to work at the arts lab cinema as a volunteer from 1980 to 1984 .I worked at the film bookstall under Neil Gammie and also new dave hutchinson.Does anyone have any memories during that or any other period please contact me.

  25. I was a student at St Peter’s College of Education, Saltley from 1966 to 1969, and used the Book Shop on Gosta Green regularly, but can’t remember the name of it. Can anybody help, please? It was on the route of the 14 & 55 buses, which I believe are still the same numbers today!

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  27. Thanks for posting this Dave.

    I have fond memories of The Triangle. I went to a theatre production that a family friend, Mark Finn, appeared in when I was 12-13 (at a guess). It included a Space Invaders machine and some live music on stage as I recall.

    Then in the mid 80s I can remember seeing Ruby Turner play (pretty sure it was on the 10th January, either 1985 or 1986) and istr seeing Terry and Gerry play there too.

    I also remember going to the cinema, I think in the late 80s, where we found we were locked in the car park, even though we’d come straight out of the cinema to pick the car up. We may have incidentally rearranged the configuration of the wall while getting out.

  28. Very sorry to hear of Pete’s death. The Triangle was a great place because of him! I worked as a volunteer projectionist for many years with Gerry Gradwell (as stated in a earler post).

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