This November our Soho Rising festival hosts a bunch of the brightest new Soho Theatre Labs voices, over a fortnight.
There’s a place on Hoe Street where you can’t help but slow down a little and sharpen your gaze. There stands a building loved by all. Granada’s original 1930s auditorium.
When this Grade II listed building closed its doors, local residents spent years campaigning for it to be saved. It wasn’t just a building, it was a heartbeat. This is where the icons performed, from Duke Ellington to The Beatles, where Johnny Cash drank backstage, where people queued for hours to see the Rolling Stones and where Hitchcock would come and catch a movie.
In 2003 ownership of the former Granada changed hands and the venue (then operating as the EMD) closed its doors to the public. 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, 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.
‘I fully support the campaign to save the cinema and share their wish to see it reopened as a flagship arts venue for east London.’
In 2014 the building was sold and a small part of it reopened as Mirth, Marvel and Maud, once again allowing people to enjoy the incredible interiors and atmosphere of the foyer. And at the same time, the Council and Soho Theatre worked on its longevity. Architects, heritage consultants and funders were all consulted on how the theatre could reopen to the full and how it would have the sustainable future it so deserves.
In 2018, the Council announced funding for the purchase and an agreement with Soho Theatre to operate it. With the building purchased, now the restorative work will soon begin with the best interests of this building at its heart.
It’s been a long journey but the future of the iconic venue is ﬁ nally looking even brighter than its illustrious past. It will be the standout legacy project of the 2019 London Borough of Culture. It will become the ﬁ nest venue for comedy in the UK and a whole lot more.
A very big thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with us. We very much look forward to welcoming you all back when the work is complete.