Two weeks after my son was born I made plans to visit the cinema with a friend and her baby. We went to a nearby multiplex and sat in with a few old ladies watching a film precariously balancing our little bundles on our knees, accompanied by stale pick ‘n’ mix and terrible coffee. After the film we were approached by an anxious looking attendant who informed us we shouldn’t have been let in, as the film was a 15, and our babies were, well, under fifteen. After a few minutes of trying to explain how it was literally impossible for them to follow the plot we gave up and left thinking the experience could have been much better. Then we discovered it could.
Welcome to the world of Everyman Cinema’s Baby Club. Forget cramped seating, inedible food and disapproving glances, the Everyman cinemas know how to do it in style. There are three that have a baby Club in London and we went to the one in Hampstead tucked in a side street, a stone’s throw from the tube station. We were greeted at the door by a helpful gentleman who checked out tickets (it’s worth booking in advance online- Baby Club is popular) and helped lift the prams up the stairs. Mummies and Daddies were milling in the lobby, and prams were safety stowed away as we drifted into the theatre. We had booked a sofa and curled up as if we were in our own living room, our babies breastfeeding happily on cushions. As everyone settled, another gentleman came to take our order for coffee and cake (included in the ticket price). A massive slab of delicious carrot cake and a cappuccino arrived shortly afterwards and we were installed, ready for the film to begin.
As one might expect, babies are not always quiet during the film but as everyone else had one, then there was no pressure to keep them quiet. The film was loud enough to follow over the top of the occasional crying/burping/cooing but not so loud as to disturb our little ones who drifted off half way through. There was something really nice about cuddling them in the dark being entertained by a film we had wanted to see for ages (another 15 incidentally). If babies needed to be changed during the film, it seemed ok just to do it on the floor so you didn’t miss anything. At the end, there was no rush to move you on, so many mums and dads welcomed some time to tog up the babies whilst discussing the film.
It must be said that although they allow babies up to the age of one to come to any film (and children to appropriate films thereafter as long as they come with a baby 0-12 months) I could have only taken my son for the first six months of his life before he became impossible to contain in one place, although no one would mind if babies did crawl or walk around as the atmosphere is pretty relaxed. Baby Club is held every Thursday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. in Hampstead (£12). If you enjoy it as much as we did and film is your thing, find other Everyman Baby Clubs in London at Belsize Park (Tuesday 11:30 a.m.; £12) and Islington (Screen on the Green) Wednesdays at 12 p.m. (£10).