I’ve been following Sneaky Experience on Twitter for ages now and knew it was something I wanted to try. They screen secret films at secret locations with extra touches that add to the fun and make it more than just a pop up movie theatre. Their latest project, featuring cocktails, a roller disco and non-optional 80’s fancy dress, seemed like too much fun to miss out on so a group of us booked tickets and went along at the weekend.
Before any of their events, Sneaky will post a whole host of clues and instructions online, so you’ll want to connect with them on Twitter and Facebook. We had to choose one of three groups (opportunity, dreams or wellbeing), and were instructed to wear sunglasses and an ID badge ‘to easily identify fellow recruits.’ This, along with the fact we were greeted by military types in flight suits, tipped us off that the film would probably be Top Gun, and we were right!
The group we chose was opportunity, and it was definitely a good call. After being put through our paces outside, with salutes and marches, we were the first group allowed to get inside the venue, a TV studio on Kirkstall Road. This meant we were also the first ones to hit the bar! As everyone had had to make their way to the venue in broad daylight in various extremes of 80’s attire (I salute you, girl dressed as a Rubix Cube), there was an audible sigh of relief as we started sipping the cocktails expertly mixed by Twist Mixology.
Once I’d polished off my first Cosmo, I was ready to hit the roller disco! This was an absolute riot: I thought that despite having not touched a pair of skates in almost 20 years I would probably pick it up alright, but actually I was INCREDIBLY WRONG. Think Bambi times ten and you’re almost there! To add insult to injury, there were some blatant professionals whizzing around making me look even worse! I still had a great time though, despite my damaged pride, and I did avoid falling, which I’m chalking up as a personal victory.
Outside there was even more to do, with the Diamond Dogs hot dog van serving up great hot dogs (including one topped with pulled pork and one slathered in hot sauce and jalapeños), and The Marvellous Tea Dance Company selling retro sweets (Wham bars! Pink shrimps! Refreshers! Oh happy days) and cupcakes topped with flying saucers and the like. There was also a graffiti artist at work, a sale of retro video games and board games, and a volleyball court, as well as at various stages, actors in costume acting out scenes from Top Gun.
The film at this point seemed almost like a distraction from the fun, but nevertheless we settled in for the screening. I’d never seen it before, so wasn’t sure what to expect, but now I’ve watched it I appreciate what Sneaky do so much more! Top Gun is over the top and cheesy and the evening was matched with it perfectly. They always create an evening that’s perfectly in tune with the film, such as their screening of Nosferatu with live orchestra at Left Bank, or Indiana Jones at Temple Works. Every detail was chosen to complement the experience and make it a great night well worth the £12 or so ticket price. In that spirit, once the film finished the chairs were pushed aside and we danced the night away to 80’s classics.
I also loved the local slant put on the event. Enjoyed the roller disco? Hang on to the Leeds Roller Dolls leaflet on your chair. The food? From Yorkshire suppliers. The actors? Local volunteers. Crafts and art? From Leeds based artists. It was a triumph! We had a fantastic time and I’ve been telling everyone about it ever since. If you get chance to attend one of their events then don’t hesitate: they’re tons of fun. The night wasn’t perfect – I’d have loved shorter queues at the bar, for example, though the generous measures were right up my street – and there were a couple of technological hitches, but I say this purely in the spirit of honest feedback. Overall it’s a wonderful, unique experience and one that I’m sure will continue to get even better as it grows.
(Added bonus: I never got the Tom Cruise thing until watching Top Gun. The character’s a tool, but back in the day Tom really had it!)