Waltham Forest's Film Society and the campaign to save the EMD Cinema

McGuffin Film Society

EMD Cinema: Sold


80-2AThe Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has sold Waltham Forest’s EMD Cinema to the Antic Pub Collective.

The cinema site (which includes the Victoria bar and adjoining shops) could now potentially be reopened as an entertainment venue, restaurant and pub if planning permission and listed building consent is granted.

The Antic Pub Collective will be working with Waltham Forest Council and other partners to ensure an acceptable scheme is devised for this historic site. Company representatives have already met with key figures working towards the EMD’s revival. 

In a statement, the McGuffin Film Society said:

“This is the first time in Britain that UCKG has been forced to abandon plans to convert a historic entertainment venue for their activities. We would like to thank everyone in the community who has supported our campaign to save the cinema. As we have always made clear, we will support any prospective new owner who aims to revive this unique venue for entertainment and culture. We can assure supporters that all of us involved in plans for the EMD’s regeneration – including the council, Soho Theatre and Waltham Forest Cinema Trust – will continue working together to secure the cinema’s future”.

In a statement, Soho Theatre said:

“Following news of the private sale, Soho Theatre held an initial meeting with the new owners and this was positive and productive. We hope and believe that we share a commitment to seeing this building brought back to life as a cultural and entertainment centre in the heart of Walthamstow and for this to run alongside Soho Theatre’s important education work in the borough”.

UCKG had indicated in recent meetings with Waltham Forest Council that they did not wish to lose the EMD Cinema via a Compulsory Purchase Order and would instead consider a private sale. It is believed that a recent attempt to sell the venue privately to another religious organisation proved unsuccessful.

Further details will be posted here shortly. To receive regular email updates please join the McGuffin mailing list here.

The McGuffins Film and TV Quiz Night

The McGuffins Film and TV Quiz Night will return later in 2015. Watch this space!

Come and test your knowledge of the film and TV greats to win a selection of prizes including cinema tickets, books, DVDs and movie memorabilia. £50 cash first prize with further cash prizes for second and third places. All welcome. Doors open 8.30pm. Admission £1.50. Click here for more details.

EMD Cinema – Campaign Update


In May 2013 the government announced the outcome of the Public Inquiry which was held to determine the fate of Walthamstow’s EMD Cinema.

The McGuffin Film Society is pleased to report that UCKG’s proposals to convert the historic venue for their religious activities were dismissed.

Yellow Advertiser May 2013Since the announcement of of the government’s decision, work has been underway to secure the building’s future as an entertainment venue. In July 2014 Waltham Forest Council confirmed its intention to seek a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to take control of the site if a voluntary sale cannot be agreed.

Waltham Forest Cinema Trust (in partnership with Soho Theatre) has also drawn up a plan to revive the EMD as a modern-day ‘cine-variety theatre’ for cinema and live performance if an agreement can be reached. 

We would like to thank the many hundreds of residents who have supported our campaign to revive the EMD over the last decade and helped us keep this issue at the forefront of the local agenda.

For the very latest news updates, join our mailing list via this link.

A complete history of the McGuffin Film Society and the campaign to save the EMD Cinema – with exclusive photos and film footage – can be found here.

The full planning appeal decision documents can be viewed here. A BBC news report can be found here with additional media coverage here, here, here and here.

Join The McGuffin Film Society or Donate Online with Your Credit/Debit Card or Paypal Account

You can now join the McGuffin Film Society or donate to the EMD Cinema campaign online using your credit card, debit card or Paypal account.

Click here for details.

Stars Back McGuffin Campaign


ROLLING STONES legend Mick Jagger has joined a host of stars backing the McGuffin campaign to save Waltham Forest’s EMD Cinema.

In a statement he said “Cinemas and live venues like The Granada in Walthamstow where the Stones played in the early days, learning our craft on the way, are the lifeblood of our cultural history. They helped launch British popular music onto a world stage and should continue to function as places of entertainment and enjoyment. It’s heartbreaking to hear such a beautiful, important historical building and centre of entertainment is being lost to the local community. I fully support the campaign to keep it open and provide film, music and the arts for generations to come.”

Other high profile supporters backing the McGuffin campaign include actors Alan Davies, Paul McGann, Meera Syal, Griff Rhys Jones and Tony Robinson as well as musician Professor Green and writers Alain de Botton and Kim Newman. Their comments and statements can be found here.

EMD Cinema: New Documentary Short

A new 11-minute documentary short exploring memories of the EMD Cinema – by filmmaker Ashton John in association with Fusion TV and DV8.  

The Campaign to Save the EMD Cinema


VLUU L200  / Samsung L200Waltham Forest’s historic EMD Cinema closed in 2003 when it was purchased by the controversial Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a wealthy international organisation with plans to convert the venue for religious use. The group bought the site despite having already been refused planning permission for their scheme and widespread public opposition.

Following a massive local campaign led by the McGuffin Film Society, the government held a Public Inquiry in the summer of 2003 which ruled that the building remained commercially viable as a cinema and should not be converted into a church. Despite receiving at least 12 serious offers from potential buyers, UCKG refused to sell the building and instead left it empty and decaying.

At the beginning of 2009 UCKG unveiled a new scheme to convert the iconic Walthamstow venue into a church. The new proposals envisaged the vast majority of the site being used exclusively as a church with some space in the Circle area of Cinema 1 adapted to create a small venue for “community hire at commercial rates”.

In March 2009 more than 400 residents gathered to discuss the new proposals at a public meeting organised by the McGuffin Film Society. 100% of those in attendance voted in favour of reviving the EMD as a cinema.

protest-april-2009-117The following month UCKG held an exhibition of their plans and the McGuffin Film Society responded by organising a huge demonstration outside the EMD Cinema attended by over 600 local residents and attracting coverage from television, radio and the international press.

Messages of support were also received from a number of celebrities (see above). Shortly afterwards, several high profile cinema operators went on the record to confirm their ongoing interest in reviving the EMD (read their statements here). UCKG’s new planning application was published in August 2009 and a Day of Action was organised by the McGuffin Film Society to enable residents to register their objections to the scheme. More than 1000 local people sent written objections to the council for consideration as part of the planning process.

protestorsWith the EMD issue and UCKG’s plans mired in huge controversy, Waltham Forest Council began 2010 by commissioning a fully independent review to finally provide a balanced overview of the situation and identify viable solutions for the cinema.

Regeneration specialists Locum Consultants were appointed to undertake a thorough investigation of the case and assess all options for the venue’s future. With the review process expected to last several months, it became clear that no decision on the EMD would be reached before the 2010 parliamentary and council elections.

The McGuffin Film Society therefore organised a huge election hustings meeting, inviting all the area’s parliamentary and council candidates to debate the future of the EMD Cinema in public. Under the banner ‘Vote Cinema’, the lively meeting was attended by more than 500 local residents – a turnout far outnumbering any other election event in the borough. votecinema-newspage

In April senior personnel from Locum Consultants inspected the EMD building and held meetings with key council officers. Representatives from UCKG and the McGuffin Film Society were summoned to the Town Hall for lengthy discussions with the consultants. Waltham Forest Council confirmed that no decision on UCKG’s planning application would be made until the outcome of the Locum investigation had been published.

In August the Locum Consultants report was finally released and would prove to be a critical development in the campaign. The report firmly endorsed many of the arguments articulated in meetings with the McGuffin Film Society, concluding that the EMD was “probably the single most valuable asset Walthamstow has” while its revival would be “perhaps the only venture that could seriously put Walthamstow on the map as an evening destination”. The Locum report went on to recommend that the best option for the EMD would be the formation of an independent charitable Trust to secure and administer its long-term future. The full Locum report can be read here. The report’s recommendations led directly to the formation of Waltham Forest Cinema Trust, a not-for-profit organisation which hopes to acquire the EMD building for cultural use if an agreement can be reached (full details below).

saveourcinema_photo_adrian_callaghan_lr_12_On Wednesday 18 May 2011 Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee met to reach a verdict on UCKG’s proposals. Amidst unprecedented scenes, more than 700 people attended the planning committee meeting at Walthamstow Assembly Hall to hear the debate and witness the vote – with at least a further 200 people unable to gain access to the building due to overcrowding.

Representatives from the McGuffin Film Society and Waltham Forest Cinema Trust spoke alongside Stella Creasy MP in support of the EMD’s revival while the church leaders delivered an angry defence of their scheme.

At the end of the meeting, the planning committee voted to reject UCKG’s proposals. The decision was unanimous and supported by all political parties.

saveour8Following the meeting, Stella Creasy MP said “UCKG’s proposal to turn the EMD Cinema into a church has now been rejected twice, demonstrating the clear and settled will of the residents of Walthamstow that they wish to see this building restored as a cinema”.

As the year closed and the deadline for any appeal or legal intervention was about to expire, UCKG delivered last-minute documents to the government’s Planning Inspectorate outlining their intention to challenge the council’s verdict at a full Public Inquiry.

2012 began with confirmation that the government would hear UCKG’s appeal and a Public Inquiry was scheduled for the early spring. The McGuffin Film Society immediately began promoting details of the appeal process and over 1000 written objections were submitted in time for the 24 February deadline.

Decision TimeDuring preparatory meetings for the Inquiry, UCKG unveiled a hastily revised plan for the EMD which now involved operating the venue as a hybrid church-cinema. The government inspectors judged this was effectively an entirely new proposal and the Inquiry was postponed. UCKG were granted a further period of time to formalise their new proposal as yet another planning application and this was delivered to Waltham Forest Council in June.

Public anger and frustration at UCKG’s tactics meant that a further 1000 planning objections were quickly amassed. A second planning committee meeting at Walthamstow Assembly Hall was set for September 4 which again saw hundreds of residents gather in support of the EMD and UCKG’s proposals unanimously rejected once more.

savecinemaIn October the government confirmed a Public Inquiry could now proceed and would consider both versions of UCKG’s scheme. Thursday 29 November was scheduled for the opening session of the Inquiry, prompting an additional 700 last-minute objections being sent to the Planning Inspectorate.

As the Inquiry began, the Cabinet of Waltham Forest Council met on Tuesday December 4 and voted unanimously to support a Compulsory Purchase Order of the EMD Cinema if UCKG’s plans were rejected by the government. Although a CPO had been debated on many occasions in the past, this was the first time it had been subjected to a vote and formally adopted as council policy.

The Public Inquiry ran for a period of three weeks and evidence was heard from the McGuffin Film Society, Waltham Forest Cinema Trust, Curzon Cinemas, Soho Theatre and a wide range of expert witnesses who all argued in support of the EMD’s revival. The Inquiry eventually concluded a few days before Christmas and it was announced that a final decision should be expected in May 2013.

A complete history of the McGuffin Film Society and the campaign to save the EMD Cinema – with exclusive photos and film footage – can be found here.

Recent media reports from the BBC, London Evening Standard and Waltham Forest Guardian can be found here, here, here and hereArticles from Snipe Magazine and the film journal Vertigo can be found here and here. emd2lightb1

Hundreds of McGuffin supporters gather outside the EMD to mark the fifth anniversary of the venue’s closure in 2008.

‘Alfred Hitchcock in East London’


The feature-length documentary ‘Alfred Hitchcock in East London’ is now available as a limited edition DVD.

‘Alfred Hitchcock in East London’ explores the legendary director’s mysterious early days and uncovers many lesser known facts about his formative years. Retracing Hitchcock’s footsteps around Leytonstone, Limehouse, Stratford and Hackney, the film reveals how his early London life profoundly influenced his later work. The documentary also examines Hitchcock’s associations with the long forgotten Walthamstow film industry and tells the previously untold story of his support for an East London cinema during the height of his Hollywood fame.

The film identifies the key sites from the director’s youth which still exist today and features contributions from Roy Ward Baker (assistant director, ‘The Lady Vanishes’), Charles Barr (author of the seminal ‘English Hitchcock’), veteran actor Murray Melvin and numerous others. It paints a portrait of Hitchcock and his roots which is radically different to previous biographies and documentaries.

“a fascinating insight” – Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

“a rarely seen side of the master which is often conveniently ignored in favour of his later Hollywood success” – USA Today

The DVD can now be purchased from Amazon here or the Merchandise page here. Alternatively, send a cheque / postal order for £10 payable to ‘McGuffin’ to: The McGuffin Film Society, 458 Hoe Street, London E17 9AH.

TV news report and recent reviews below.



Waltham Forest Cinema Trust

Waltham Forest Cinema Trust is a not-for-profit independent organisation and registered company which aims to buy, restore and reopen the EMD Cinema as a place of entertainment for the benefit of the whole community.

Waltham Forest Cinema Trust was created in 2011 in direct response to the recommendations found in the council-commissioned Locum Consultants Report which examined the viability of reviving the EMD. The Trust has developed a strong business model for the revived venue which would be fully independent and financially self-sustaining. The Trust has forged a close partnership with Soho Theatre and is exploring potential collaborations with Curzon Cinemas, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sadie Frost and Ian Ritchie Architects.

The Trust’s plans would see the EMD reinvented as a mixed-use entertainment centre with cinema at the core of its activities.

The Trust’s directors boast strong links to the community, excellent fundraising experience and a track record of delivering similar projects.

Waltham Forest Cinema Trust is ready to open negotiations to purchase the EMD Cinema from current owners UCKG and recognises that extensive restoration and refurbishment is needed to bring the building back into use.

For more information visit Waltham Forest Cinema Trust’s website and Soho Theatre’s website.

Show Your Support – Posters and Leaflets

T Shirt 2009

Show your support for the EMD Cinema campaign by downloading one of the posters below and displaying in your window, car or workplace.

 SaveWalthamstow’sCinema-poster          SaveWalthamstow’sCinema-poster2


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