We all know and love the Granada Theatre and its history, but are there memories and stories that we don’t yet know?

Leyton Sixth Form students are exploring the history and imagined future of the former Granada/EMD, creating a collection of stories and objects telling tales of the venue for an interactive exhibition.

Inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, the Granada Theatre in Walthamstow opened in the 1930s as the Music Hall Granada Chain Cinema Variety. With a majestic and awe-inspiring building and interiors, it hosted variety performances for the local population. In the mid-1950s to the 60s the building received a design makeover, and with biggies like the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbinson, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Chuck Berry, Cilla Black and the Rolling Stones playing here, the building became a well-known venue for music and gigs for the next 30 years. During this time, the building also hosted Pantomimes every Christmas for over 10 years.

After a series of changes in the early 1990s, the Granada became mainly a cinema. Eventually purchased by an independent operator who renamed it EMD Cinema, making it a popular Bollywood cinema in Walthamstow. In 2003, the EMD was sold again, screening its last ever film before closing its doors to the public for one last time.

While the new owners sought permission to convert it into a church, local residents, businesses and politicians campaigned hard for it to preserve its heritage and continued use for what it was famous for – entertainment. Local groups, like the McGuffin Film Society and Save Walthamstow Cinema, led the passionate campaign that created quite a following. Over 1,000 people attended the planning meetings, and nearly every local business supported it.

The Council engaged consultants to help identify options for the building – a glorious venue but built for a former age. The local Waltham Forest Cinema Trust was founded and, working with Soho Theatre, it came forward with an inspiring new vision, respecting the building’s heritage and reinventing its future.

In 2012 the Council, Waltham Forest Cinema Trust, Soho Theatre and local campaigners won the decisive public inquiry which agreed that the former Granada should have a future as an entertainment venue. Now, ahead of its grand reopening, Leyton Sixth Form students are putting together a collection of stories to create an exhibition about the building and its history.

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