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Theatres Trust removes the theatre from its risk register
Theatres Trust, the charity that campaigns to protect the UK’s theatres, has this month announced that it’s removed the magnificent Grade II* listed building – reopening next year after extensive restoration work as Soho Theatre Walthamstow – from its Theatres at Risk Register.
The Theatres at Risk Register, which has been running for 17 years, calls attention to important theatre buildings, their challenges, and the cultural opportunities they bring to local communities. Since the list began, more than 80 theatres have been restored, revived or rebuilt. Soho Theatre Walthamstow is one of only three buildings removed from the risk register this year.
Built in 1930 by architect Cecil Aubrey Masey with interior decoration by Theodore Komisarjevsky, the Walthamstow venue opened as the Granada, a ciné-variety theatre. Thirty years later it transformed into a live music venue hosting scores of famous acts including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and The Ronettes, before becoming a cinema and renamed as the EMD. The cinema closed in 2003 and the building was bought by a group who planned to turn it into a church. The local community and Theatres Trust objected, on the grounds that the borough would lose its only working theatre and access to entertainment, the purpose for which the building was originally intended.
Local resident groups campaigned for the building to continue as an entertainment venue and in 2012 Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and Soho Theatre presented its vision of the building’s future to Waltham Forest Council. A decisive public planning inquiry ruled the following year in favour of the building continuing as an entertainment venue. After the church group sold the building a year later, part of it reopened as a bar, but the rest of the building, already in a terrible state from almost 20 years of neglect, fell into further disrepair.
It was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2015. Meanwhile Soho Theatre and Waltham Forest Council developed plans to acquire, restore and run the venue as an exciting new cultural hub – a local theatre with a national profile – and in 2019 the Council purchased the building with Soho Theatre on board to run the theatre. Thanks to the support of Theatres Trust, in 2020 they awarded Soho Theatre a Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme grant which enabled us to business plan and continue to support the project. Coming off the risk register in 2023 marks another major milestone in the building’s rich and fascinating history.