Over the last decade of running Badger GP, one of my favourite spin off projects was the “Grand Prix Bash” where we had a hundred or so fans together to enjoy a race on a cinema screen.
It’s the sort of thing that should have existed already. Watching F1 on TV at home is fine, but watching it on a cinema screen with a load of likeminded fans is so much better. You get more of the atmosphere as if you were at the track and with that, even a dull race can be fun.
Yes, every major city has a sports bar, but the majority of these are not suitable for Formula 1. Having a 30″ or even 50″ telly on the wall doesn’t do F1 justice and many F1 fans have something like that at home with a comfy sofa to boot. Many sports bars have a ‘giant screen’, but all too often it won’t be HD or will be a poor quality setup.
Yes, these setups are fine for football matches – commentary isn’t anywhere near as important and as long as you can see players kicking the ball about you’re sorted. Speaking of which, if football is on, F1 will be sidelined in any sports venue without a second thought.
When watching F1 you need the commentary, it’s vital. End of. You also need to see all the timing data to understand what’s going on. Many F1 fans also use the Live Timing service from F1.com as well, so they can track the race as a whole. Geeky? Yes, but that’s F1.
Official “F1 in Cinemas”
As many others of a similar vintage to me will know, F1 did do “F1 in Cinemas” for a brief period here in the UK with selected Odeon cinemas showing races live. This could have been perfect. But it was far from it. A great idea, massively missing the point and completely flawed.
Why? I only did it once, but it was enough. I visited Covent Garden Odeon for the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix. Upon arrival half and hour before the race, we were the only people in or near the cinema (ok, so yes cinemas aren’t busy at midday on a Sunday) and as the race happened we realised that we were 2 of only 10 people in the cinema. Wow. Atmosphere, zero. We got the full race coverage, but nothing else. Missed all the good stuff from the ITV F1 coverage, no live timing and a hole in my wallet where £30 used to live. £30 each – and that was 10 years ago now. F1 in cinemas was a massive disappointment. It’s no surprise that the concept collapsed and vanished without a trace after 2008.
The Badger “GP Bash”
A couple of years later, following the rapid success of Badger GP being a fan-centric F1 blog, I setup a basic event in central London to show F1 live on a big screen. To my surprise I wasn’t the only person who thought this was a good idea and for a good few years, I organised around 4 or 5 “GP Bashes” per year with Badger GP team.
What’s a GP Bash? Yes it’s F1 on a cinema screen, that’s where the similarities with the official effort end. The ‘GP Bash’ concept is so much more. Firstly, it’s not in a cinema. Yes we have a cinema screen, but with comfy, more sociable seating setup, a well stocked bar and proper food, with table service. Throw in quizzes, raffles, fan forums and prizes to be won with food and drink in plentiful supply and you’ve got what I think is the best way to enjoy Formula 1.
Sourcing the right venue proved to be hardest task and with limited budget and strict requirements, it even proved difficult in London. We had a few great years at a independent film and bar venue in London Bridge until management changed and it declined rapidly. We tried alternatives but nothing ever really worked as well – either with poorer quality screen setups, food and drink I don’t approve or endorse, or just crazy hire costs.
Yes, other people may be perfectly happy eating deep fried junk food and drinking cheapo cooking lager, but it’s not something I want to endorse or encourage through my own doing. It doesn’t pass my rocking chair test.
Enter “Grand Prix Screenings”
After a couple of years off, I’m looking to bring back F1 on cinemas under the more Ronseal-esque branding of “Grand Prix Screenings”. The lack of great venues was the main reason for the break, along with moving to Yorkshire and all the other malarkey that goes with relocating.
Why bring it back? Simply, because it’s a massively fun project, something I’m passionate about and believe should exist. Oh and I happened to find the PERFECT venue.
It’s maybe a risky move, but since I’m based in Yorkshire now, I’ve decided to bring the events back, here in Leeds and thanks to the brilliant Sheaf Street venue I couldn’t resist the idea.
The venue consists of not one or two, but three giant cinema screens capable of 4K resolution, a proper sound system, a bar that stocks drinks you actually want (no Fosters or Carling here!), a cafe that serves ridiculously tasty food and enough space to show off an F1 car. Now there’s an idea (watch this space).
And so, next month I’ll be setting up for the Canadian Grand Prix LIVE in Leeds, all being well, the British GP is booked in too. See GrandPrixScreenings.com for all the info, follow on social media via @GPScreenings and of course, come along if you fancy.