£17m restoration of Granada Cinema planned after council buys iconic venue, writes James Cracknell
As Waltham Forest celebrates its year as the first-ever London Borough of Culture, some people have pointed to the irony of this accolade going to the only borough in the capital without a permanent theatre venue. Yet, it does – it’s just not open.
On Hoe Street in Walthamstow stands a building with an impressive history of having been not just a theatre and cinema but a music venue that once hosted The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Granada Cinema, also known as the EMD after its most recent use before closure in 2003, is now 90 years old and is Grade 2* listed by Historic England for its “fine Art Deco and Moorish style interiors”.
But the Granada is also in a state of decay and disrepair after being left to rot during its decade of ownership by a church group that was never able to obtain planning permission to convert it into a place of worship – after being blocked from doing so by both Waltham Forest Council and the government.
Signs of hope for Granada’s restoration appeared in 2014 when Antic London acquired the site, and later reopened the foyer as a gastro pub called Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Live music, comedy and pantomime has even been hosted there in recent years, but the main auditorium itself remains closed off and in need of a multi-million-pound refurbishment.
It was the prohibitive cost of the venue’s repair that prevented Antic from doing anything with the main auditorium for the past five years, despite attempts to find a partner organisation that would want to run it as a theatre. Enter stage right, Waltham Forest Council. Last month it was confirmed the local authority had bought the Granada for £2.8million from Antic – and will also fund its £17m restoration.