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The buzz of Soho is coming to the Stow

Comedy, theatre and panto are one step closer to being regular fixtures on the east-London social scene, as proposals to create a 1,000 seat entertainment venue in Walthamstow progressed last night (Tuesday 15 July).

Take a walk down Hoe Street, E17 and you can’t miss the boarded-up Grade II* listed EMD building - or Granada cinema as it’s also known - which has been closed since 2003. Just a stone’s throw from Walthamstow Central tube station, the building, which once welcomed The Beatles and the Rolling Stones during its heyday as a thriving performing arts venue, is sadly a shadow of its former self and in need of serious investment.

But, after huge community support to bring the building back into use, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet agreed last night to provide funding to Soho Theatre to help them purchase the building to get the restoration project off the ground. Over a hundred local residents showed up at the meeting to hear the decision and show their support for the scheme.

The proposals are part of Waltham Forest Council’s vision to create a thriving night-time economy in the borough and while attracting top comedy and entertainment acts, the finished venue will generate 33 full-time equivalent jobs and is expected to bring an extra £500,000 into the local economy every year.

Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “Residents have told us that they want the EMD open as an entertainment venue again and we’re committed to helping to make that happen.”

“Not only will the new venue give residents the quality entertainment they deserve, it will bring a wonderful building back into use and form part of our wider plans for regenerating the town centre, helping to attract more investment in the area.”

Having worked with big names like Eddie Izzard and Micky Flanagan, Soho Theatre attract over 170,000 audience members every year and have a strong track record as a charity and social enterprise in the entertainment world. 

Their vision for Walthamstow Granada, the venue’s working title, is to provide a local venue with a national profile; somewhere that residents and Londoners can enjoy top comedy acts, large scale theatre, musicals, dance and talent shows and an annual Christmas Panto for children of all ages.

Mark Godfrey and Steve Marmion, Directors of Soho Theatre, said: “We are delighted to be working with Waltham Forest Council in this way. We want to thank them and the building's dedicated supporters within the local community who have worked so hard to get us all to this point - we're not there yet but this is a really important step forward.”

“We will bring the Granada back to life as an entertainment venue for the 21st century. In an area of London with limited cultural provision, it will become one of the capital's finest venues for the best in comedy, theatre and panto, cinema and live streaming, education and community access.”

“We want to create a local venue with a national profile. A space that that has close ties with local schools, artists, volunteer groups and sports clubs; a space for the biggest and the best international names to perform; a space for local audiences and those from much further afield.”

The funding will assist Soho Theatre to pursue a negotiated sale with the building owners, United Church of the Kingdom of God. If successful, it will mean the Council does not have to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) – a legal process where the Council obtains the land without the owner’s consent. While a negotiated sale is the preferred option, the Council can still use its CPO powers if necessary.

Soho Theatre are already progressing a planning application for the building, with pre-application discussions on-going. They will deliver the scheme in two phases.


Notes to editors:


  • For more information contact Emily Blackshaw, Waltham Forest Council press office, on 020 8496 4445 or

  • According to English Heritage, Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*. The EMD building is also on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register.

  • The ‘Save The Cinema’ campaign and the McGuffin Film Society have attracted thousands of supporters, calling for the EMD building to be brought back into use.

  • The building’s current owners, United Church of the Kingdom of God, have made three planning applications in recent years to restore the building as a place of worship. In May 2013, the Planning Inspector - on behalf of the Secretary of State – considered their most recent planning application and upheld the Council’s decision to refuse permission.

  • At the Cabinet meeting on 15 July, Cabinet agreed in principle to provide funding to Soho Theatre to pursue a negotiated sale. This was agreed in accordance with the Council’s powers under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011 and due to commercial confidentiality, the funding amount cannot be disclosed.

  • Phase 1 of the project will see the auditorium and seating in the stalls restored, and a new stage, lighting and sound equipment put in place. A pop-up bar and box office will also be created and the toilets and lobby areas will be upgraded.

  • A fundraising campaign will help fund phase 2 of the scheme, which will provide a restaurant and bar, three new cinema screens, education space and upgraded audience facilities in the lobby, bar and auditorium. The auditorium will have 1,000 seats plus three cinema screens with additional seats for independent and art-house films.

  • In December 2012, Cabinet agreed in principle to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) if a negotiated sale is not successful, and this agreement in principle still stands.

  • The picture shows Steve Marmion, Artistic Director at Soho Theatre, with Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, along with Cabinet members and supporters from the local community.

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