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When we were thinking about how the former Granada/EMD cinema could fully reopen, we consulted with architects, heritage consultants and funders about the sustainable future this glorious building so deserves. We were faced with three choices: return the building to how it looked when it first opened at the height of the 1930s golden age of cinema; completely refurbish the interior, eradicating all visual clues to its past; preserve the rich, diverse history of this incredible building, honouring its heritage and many iterations over the years.
With nearly 100 years of history etched into the walls, floors and ceilings, a unanimous decision was made to retain this fascinating glimpse into the past. But because the building had been in a state of dereliction for nearly 20 years, modern-day preservation techniques were needed to stop the building deteriorating further.
For lovers of history and architecture, the technical term for this style of preservation is ‘arrested decay’ which was first coined in the United States. It’s changed the way old buildings are being restored and it’s becoming best practice for conservation projects because it takes less resources and energy and so is better for the environment.
By leaving the interior as found, and stopping any further decay, audiences and visitors to Soho Theatre Walthamstow will be able to see evidence of the architectural and design choices from the 1930s (the grandeur of Spanish Moorish design), the 1960s (the deep oranges, browns and reds, when the building was a music hall and famous bands including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and The Ronettes played here), and the 1990s (lush purples and greens inspired by Bollywood).
90 percent of the interior will be preserved, telling the story of how the Granada has changed over time. As the building enters a new era – a local theatre with a national profile – we think the aesthetic created by arresting the decay fits well with Soho Theatre’s informal, relaxed ethos.