Located in the north-eastern fringes of London, Walthamstow is noteworthy on two fronts. It has the longest street market in Europe, a kilometre stretch of stalls described by Wikipedia as “downmarket and unique“. It is also the end of the line for the London Underground’s Victoria line and hence a place where passengers may occasionally end up after falling asleep on the way to more salubrious locations.
Things may be looking up though for the ‘Stow. If Soho Theatre has their way, a former Granada picturehouse could soon be converted into a 1,000-seat suburban outpost serving up comedy, theatre, and cinema screenings.
It won’t be cheap or easy. Figures being thrown around suggest that the project will need around £8 million to convert the grade-II* listed building into its final form.
The current owners, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God have been trying to secure planning permission to change the venue into a church with zero success for over a decade. Will the UCKG see the light and hand over the keys to the denizens of Dean Street?
Given how determined the local authority is to move them along, the church may not have a choice in the matter. Waltham Forest Council has already agreed to subsidise Soho Theatre’s purchase with public money from its rapidly shrinking capital programme.
At a recent cabinet meeting, councillors voted to contribute money to help the theatre company buy the former Granada cinema in Walthamstow and renovate it. If the UCKG refuse to sell, the council will provide cash towards completing a compulsory purchase order which will see the eventual eviction of the present occupiers after up to two years.
Mark Godfrey and Steve Marmion, directors of Soho Theatre, are understandably appreciative of the council’s financial support, saying that it was a “really important step forward”.
“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,” they went on to say.
UCKG have declined to comment.
Image: Ewan Munro