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Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Last Picture Show

Trying to purchase some muslin in Walthamstow market is tricky.

Since most of the storeholders are Muslim and what with my lisp and their less than perfect ear to the nuances of spoken English I found myself in some difficulty. Luckily I hit upon a West Indian woman who knew what I wanted - not a Muslim through which to strain my  elderflower cordial - otherwise I might have been charged with incitement to religious hatred.

As reported yesterday I went to the demonstration on the steps of our town hall to make clear our objection to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God's (UCKG)  planning application to turn the last cinema in Walthamstow into a "Help Centre" - a church.

The  UCKG has a pretty poor reputation and its type of Christian worship is somewhat alien to many of us non religious Church of England stalwarts. However, prejudice has no place in the planning process and whether or not I personally found the Church unsavoury was not at issue yesterday evening.

The local community had mounted a vigorous campaign over the years to bring  the cinema  back into use: the Church's purchase  made things much more difficult. Yesterday both sides had an opportunity to state their case at the special planning committee meeting.

This is a observation - nothing more. There were two groups of supporters at yesterday's hearing. The Church's who were almost 100% black and young, and the cinema campaigners who were nearly all white and middle-class. In a borough with a substantial Indian sub continent and Muslim population there were few in attendance.

The council officials had recommended rejection of the Church's application. That was stunning  - the Church has a fearful reputation when it comes to planning applications. The Planning Committee rejected the application unanimously - that was fantastic. I think it was more than many of us could have hoped for. I suspect quite a few cinema supporters directed an ironic prayer or two upwards after the result was announced.

A Cinema Trust has been formed to raise the funds to buy the cinema off the Church and to get the financial and technical wherewithal in place to renovate and bring back into use this 1930's Art Deco gem. (In the 1960's I travelled from Brighton to see James Brown there).

There's a long way to go. The Church is likely to appeal; money has to be raised and the Church has to sell, but the perseverance, skill and dedication of those involved in the campaign will surely win through.


Steve said...

Another victory for the British Film Industry.

Marginalia said...

Thank you Colin Welland.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I used to work for a theatre built in the 30s when I was in college. It is gorgeous - and still there, still showing films. I loved walking in the catacombs and other areas that were off limits to the general public. Going to work there was always a pleasure - a beauty to behold.

Marginalia said...

Dear ETW, you're not related to Cybill Shepherd by any chance.

Selina Kingston said...

The thing is - when's the apocalypse due...21st May ?? I'd stay on the side of the Church until then and then on the 23rd, switch back your allegiances. Well, you never know !!!

Keith said...

Saw this on the news.

Already too many old cinemas have gone the way of old newsreels, lost forever. the ones that survive are cherished. Tooting Granada, the egyptian one in Kilburn, Richmond's atmospheric. More power to you for bringing this one to the fore and hopefully saving this one. Next time I am in the area I am going to have a look at it.

Marginalia said...

Dear Selina, not sure that woold work. Just imagine there you are in front of your maker, and he says "Selina, now did you think you could get away with that old trick? "as you're led away through the door marked "Give up hope!"

Marginalia said...

Dear Keith, it's certainly good news. I think many see it not just as restoring an old cinema but also a start to a regeneration and sense of pride in our area.