Granada Theatre

Former ciné-variety theatre with a richly decorated and atmospheric auditorium, in the only London borough without a permanent theatre. There is significant local community and council support for a return to theatre use.

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Address
186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, London, E17 4QH
Risk Rating
6 (Community Value: 3, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 1)
Operator
Antic London
Architect
Cecil Aubrey Masey
Date of Construction
1930
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
1,000

Significance

The Granada was built in 1930 by architect Cecil Masey with interior decoration by Theodore Komisarjevsky. It operated initially as a ciné-variety theatre, later becoming a live music venue hosting the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and cinema. It is now Grade II* listed. In the main auditorium, the richly decorated proscenium arch and gilded decorated wall grilles are reminiscent of details from the Palace at Cordoba, overlaid with seventeenth-century Baroque features. The 'Hall of Mirrors' lobby and part of the auditorium were stylishly redecorated to their original splendour in 1995, and the central kiosk in the foyer designed to match. The building could provide a new performance space for Waltham Forest, a borough which does not currently have a major permanent theatre or performance space. There is widespread support among local residents and businesses for this venue to return to entertainment use.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The cinema closed in 2003 when the building was bought by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Lobbying by local residents with support of the council prevented conversion to a church. In 2014 pub group Antic London, backed by Downing LLP, acquired the freehold of the building.  

While the foyer spaces are currently in use as a pub and a small cinema screen is in use as a small-scale entertainment space, the auditorium and stage areas are now in a poor condition and if not brought back into use, there is a strong risk that they will deteriorate further and the venue will be lost permanently for live performance use.

Current situation

The London Borough of Waltham Forest has long been supportive of a scheme to see the Granada restored as part of the regeneration of Walthamstow. In 2017 it was successful in an expression of interest to the Mayor of London’s Good Growth fund, which allocated £50,000 towards developing a scheme concept.

In February 2018 Waltham Forest was announced as the first London Borough of Culture. Two weeks later, the council announced its intentions to purchase the Granada and to work with Soho Theatre to restore and reopen the theatre. The ambition is for a 1,000-seat venue delivering a high quality programme of entertainment, cherry-picked from Soho’s existing acclaimed programme of theatre and comedy, alongside an annual panto and a wide-reaching community education programme building on the existing programmes it offers in Waltham Forest.

The council report outlining the ambition to purchase the Granada estimated that once renovated the site could add between £34m and £52m to the local economy over a ten-year period.

At a Cabinet meeting on 17 January, Waltham Forest Council approved the terms for the acquisition of the freehold and a construction budget for the total refurbishment costs of the Granada. Heads of terms were also agreed with Soho Theatre for the lease and operation of the venue.

Renovation of the site is estimated to take around three years to complete. Waltham Forest Council is currently looking for options to part finance this including external heritage, arts and regeneration funders. Theatres Trust has been supporting the council in this ambition and will continue to provide advice and support.

Update May 2019

London Borough of Waltham Forest has now bought the Walthamstow Granada and Soho Theatre has signed up as the venue operator. Read our statement about this good news.

Image: Granada Theatre, Nicholas Allott