“save our cinema!” – the walthamstow protest

UCKG crowd already in, Cinema crowd trying to get in...

Last night, I was extremely proud to be part of my community.

For those who don’t know, Waltham Forest is one of only two London Boroughs without a cinema (the other being Lewisham, I believe).  We had a lovely cinema up to 8 years ago.  A beautiful art deco building where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had played gigs and where Hitchcock had seen films as a boy.  It is a Grade II Listed Building and the last remaining British cinema with its original Christie organ in situ.

However, in 2003, the then EMD owned cinema was in rather a state of disrepair, seemed to have restrictions on films able to be shown, was starting to smell rather heavily of wee and was therefore not as well-frequented (a bit like the Rose & Crown before that got taken over!).  So, it was sold, to the United Church for the Kingdom of God.

Over the years, we have been told various tales of how the building is unsuitable to be re-opened as a cinema, but this has been challenged at every stage of the way.  For the past 8 years, UCKG have petitioned to change the building use to a place of worship.  Plans have even claimed to use the building as ‘a community meeting place’ with an apparent ability to show films.  Are the majority of local people going to go to church to watch The Fast & The Furious 5?

What we're trying to save (box office)

So, 18th May was a huge day for local residents, as it was Decision Day -the planning committee of local councillors was due to hear the arguments from both sides at a public meeting at the Town Hall and reject or accept the planning application from UCKG.

Being a proud member of the E17 ‘Awesomestow’ Twitterati, I had been really happy that so many of us were empassioned by the plight of the cinema, and arranged to meet up to show our support on the night.

When I got there though, there were even more familiar faces than I was expecting – I saw friends I know from the pub, members of my Book Club, neighbours, and even teachers from The Girl’s school.  Being able to mill around, mix in different circles and just recognise familiar faces in a huge crowd made me feel so ‘belonging’.

And there really was a huge crowd.  But from both sides.

With the meeting originally taking place in the Town Hall, the plan was to meet on the Town Hall steps.  However, the veune was changed, and the meeting took place in the nearby Assembly Rooms.  this meant that the ‘Cinema crowd’ were outside the Town Hall, and the UCKG were outside the Assembly Rooms.  And as they had generally had to come from further afield, they had a large crowd very early, which felt quite intimidating.  Our lot WALKED from home generally and arrived in dribs and drabs, slowly forming a HUGE crowd of support, which was incredible.

UCKG crowd assembled when we arrived

But of course, when the doors were opened, all the UCKG were already there, and got in first.  The hall takes over 1,000 people, but we were still left with about 2-300 people (guesstimate) outside, along with a couple of bagpipers, shouting our support through the windows to those within the meeting.  Luckily, the social bar just outside the building opened and helped fuel our morale as we were there for over TWO HOURS chanting, singing, waiting for the decision, and checking our phones and Twitter feeds to find out what was going on inside.

Photo from @essgee91 of inside - all the UCKG stood up and put on hi vis vests 5 mins into proceedings. Cultish?? (That IS an 'L' btw)

And the result was unanimous – 7-0 to reject the planning application.  It was a fantastic result for all involved (from our side of course!) and puts us one step closer to getting our cinema back.

After chanting “Save Our Cinema” for two hours, it was nice to chant “We’ve SAVED our cinema” and then the police moved in to hold us back as the UCKG people came out.Obviously they all had long journeys back home, buses to catch etc and so we were quite happy to shout”We live HERE, where d’YOU live?” for a while – at which point some of them seemed to want to have a dance-off.

Perhaps the greatest moment of the night was about 1,000 people waving “Byeeeeeeeee, cheerio, safe journey…” as they made their way home, and we all went to the pub.

Of course, UCKG still own the building, but there has been a Trust set up to try to raise the money needed to buy it back and refurbish AND the UCKG are extremely guilty of letting a listed building fall into a disgusting state of disrepair.  It has had illegal raves, has been flooded, has been boarded up and covered in scaffolding for years and they have done NOTHING to look after it.

And they must now know how opposed people are locally to yet another church (I believe we have over 230 already!!).

So, the first skirmish has been won – and now the battle proper shall commence.

Other links:

And – last but not least, my favourite response from the UCKG

The Churchy response...

17 thoughts on ““save our cinema!” – the walthamstow protest

Add yours

  1. Great account, Norma. Just as it happened. And had you been in the upper gallery with me you would have added how shocking were the departing chants of the cult’s young followers –“We will fuck you!”. Obviously, our E17 community is in desperate need of this kind of help.

    Now the first hurdle is over… let’s win the full battle E17ers!!

    1. Part of me is glad I DIDN’T hear that! Although I would’ve loved to have been inside, the atmosphere outside was amazing, and the wonderful Tweeters kept us up-to-date with what was being said! What DID we do before Twitter?!?

    2. I too was in the upper tier and was disgusted by their absolute disrespect when our speakers were talking, yet hushed my friend when she whispered something in my ear during one of their falkey sob stories. Marverde, thank you for confirming that they were actually saying ‘we will fuck you’, which is an almighty disgrace seeing as they wanted to perhaps ‘prove’ they were worthy of the cinema building, yet couldn’t show any grace when they lost. Disgraceful bunch of people who we probably don’t need around Walthamstow.

  2. Someone pointed out last night in the pub that technically as an E10 resident I too had been ‘bussed in’ to support the cinema…

    1. Yes, there IS that, but you were ‘bussed in’ from within the borough, not outside it, which we believe they were guilty of. plus you spend time (and money) in E17 anyway!

    1. I think that was Granada, but not sure, that was MANY years ago. Dunno if EMD were plannign to do it up at any stage, but UCKG offered them twice the market value of the property – they were hardly going to turn it down, were they.

      But then they DON’T get to just do whatever the want with the property due to the change of use…

  3. It was a stunning occasion in so many ways… Great account. So many great moments, not least discovering the council’s social club a few feet away doing pints for about £2.40

  4. The cinema was sold by Odeon in 2000 (the eventual owners after Granada) to an independent cinema operator who intended refurbishing the building until he began receiving offers by the UCKG to buy the building from him for twice it’s market value and almost 3 times the amount he paid for it. UCKG submitted their first planning application for church use in 2002 but instead of waiting to get that approved by the council went ahead and bought the building anyway in 2003 at which point they immediately closed it.

    The important thing about this is that although the cinema was run down, had the UCKG not turned up it would certainly still have been operating today.

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