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

What Others Say

Celebrity Supporters

Previous EMD Cinema bidders

Other cinema operators

Local business people


Celebrity Supporters


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”.

A number of other high profile supporters have come forward to back the campaign.

The writer and philosopher Alain de Botton is the bestselling author of ‘The Architecture of Happiness’ and a vocal advocate of preserving classic London buildings.

“The EMD Cinema was built to promote happiness, culture and entertainment for the benefit of the whole community,” he said. “I fully support the McGuffin campaign to save the cinema and share their wish to see it reopened as a flagship arts venue for east London”.

Actor and comedian Alan Davies – star of ‘Jonathan Creek’ and a regular celebrity panelist on the BBC’s long running ‘Q.I.’ – was born in nearby Loughton and attended school in Woodford Green. He travelled to Walthamstow regularly throughout his childhood and teenage years to watch films at the EMD and has fond memories of the cinema.

“I was shocked to hear of the possible demise of the beautiful Granada Cinema in Walthamstow,” he said. “I spent many happy hours there as a child and find it extraordinary that its preservation as a cinema for local people is not a priority in the borough of Waltham Forest. With the recent demise of the dog track and now this news, it seems the protection of the area’s historic and cultural landmarks is in the wrong hands.”

Award winning actress and screenwriter Meera Syal MBE once lived near the cinema and has also offered her support.

“I’ve spent many happy hours in this stunningly beautiful building over the years,” said Meera Syal. “The Walthamstow cinema has a rare touch of glamour and it would be an absolute tragedy if the film lovers of east London were to be permanently deprived of this beautiful jewel of a cinema”.

‘Blackadder’ and ‘Time Team’ star Tony Robinson grew up in Leytonstone and was a regular visitor to the EMD throughout his youth.

“The cinema is an exotic masterpiece,” said Tony Robinson. “It’s where my teenage eyes were opened to the great jazz and rock ‘n’ roll artists of the 1960s and where I saw a host of great movies. At this exciting time in our history when east London is about to be revitalised, it would be crazy to turn our backs on such a magnificent venue. If not for our sakes, then for the sake of the next generation of film and music lovers, let’s ensure it is given the opportunity to reclaim its place as the hub of Walthamstow’s high-class entertainment”.

The Wales-born TV comedian and presenter Griff Rhys Jones grew up in Epping and was a regular visitor to the Walthamstow venue where he saw numerous films throughout his childhood.

“We will realise that we have lost something wonderful and magical if this cinema goes and it will only slip away if we don’t raise our voices to stop that happening,” he said. “I am an Epping boy and Walthamstow was my stomping ground. This is a great place and a great place to watch films. These grand cinemas are becoming rarer. They were the cathedrals of their age and still have a role to play”.

Griff Rhys Jones has been joined by actor and former Walthamstow resident Paul McGann in pledging his support to the EMD campaign.

“The planning officers should do the right thing and ensure the borough does not lose its last working cinema,” said Paul McGann. “It would be nothing short of a cultural disgrace if this was allowed to happen and would underline why our nearest European neighbours regard us as philistines”.

Film director Nigel Cole grew up in the local area and was later responsible for the British hits ‘Calendar Girls’ and ‘Made in Dagenham’.

“I remember the cinema well from growing up in the area,” he said. “Its one of those spaces that made you feel the magic and excitement of film even as you entered. It would be a tragedy to lose such a great piece of history”.

David Warner is an Emmy-award winning actor with a career spanning more than four decades. His extensive film credits include ‘Star Trek’, ‘Titanic’, ‘The Omen’, ‘Time Bandits’ and ‘Straw Dogs’ and he is well known for his long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“It’s essential for our future that we do not destroy the treasures of our past,” he said. “This building saw the beginning of something we now take for granted – the shared experience of cinema. Please allow it to remain for that purpose – a place of memories and dreams”.

Meanwhile, chart-topping Hackney-born rapper Professor Green was also a frequent visitor to the venue during his childhood and said: “East London would benefit from restoring the EMD Cinema back to its 1930’s state of glory. Arts and culture are for everyone”.

In addition, David Parfitt – chairman of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) – has issued a statement in support of the venue’s revival.

“The cinema should be at the heart of the community,” he said. “Film is open to all regardless of religion or ethnicity and seeing a great film in a great cinema is one of the best community experiences you can have. Don’t let another great picture palace die”.

Writer, film critic and horror historian Kim Newman commented “As far as I’m concerned, a cinema space is sacred enough. Turning this one into a church would be a sacrilege”.

Chingford MP and government Minister Iain Duncan Smith has joined Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy in pledging support to the revival of the historic Hoe Street landmark.

“Its time this cinema reopened,” said Iain Duncan Smith. “From my standpoint in Chingford this is our local cinema. With cinema tickets selling at record levels, it would be good for the community and good for Waltham Forest if it was revived”.

The family of the men who created Walthamstow’s EMD Cinema have backed the campaign to save the venue. Showbiz moguls Cecil and Sidney Bernstein founded the Granada cinemas empire in 1930 and the Walthamstow site was one of their first and most lavish projects. The Ilford-born brothers would later build more than 50 cinemas around the country and were the founders of Granada Television. Sidney Bernstein was also a lifelong friend and collaborator of Alfred Hitchcock with whom he formed Transatlantic Pictures in 1948. Sidney Bernstein’s nephew Toby Stone has been in touch to offer his family’s support for the campaign to save the cinema.

“My family and I are very concerned to hear that the cinema might cease to be a place of entertainment and become a church,” he said. “This building has served as a cinema for many generations of people and is the last substantial place of entertainment in the area. The building was intended to bring the community together and to raise local access to culture and entertainment. It was always meant to be somewhere open to everyone. If it becomes a church then clearly that purpose is completely lost. It would be very sad for Waltham Forest if such a long and important tradition now falls by the wayside through the outcome of a planning decision. It was designed by some of the great architects and designers of their generation and forms part of the heritage of the great picture palaces”.

Anna Massey, actress and star of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film ‘Frenzy’ contacted the McGuffin Film Society shortly before her sad death in 2011 and said:

“Cinemas should always be preserved if possible, for all films benefit from the warmth of an audience. But one of the first cinemas in the country – and an Art Deco masterpiece where Hitchcock saw his early films – well, this must be preserved as a cinema at all costs. We must march about this and write a hundred letters if necessary. It has to remain for the lovers of cinema to cherish it and pass it on to the generations that follow”.

The late politician, broadcaster and historian Tony Benn also sent a message to confirm his opposition to the UCKG plans.

“I offer 100% support against the vandalism that is being planned,” said Tony Benn.


Previous EMD Cinema bidders

Some previous bidders who tried to buy the EMD Cinema have broken their silence. As the McGuffin Film Society always maintained, a number of substantial bids were made for the site when the cinema was put up for sale in 2005/6. However, all bids were rejected. Until now the bidders have preferred to remain anonymous and declined to discuss their plans in the public arena. We have always respected these wishes but are pleased to now set the record straight.

Tyrone Walker-Hebborn is the businessman who created the hugely successful Genesis Cinema in Mile End. The venue was developed at the derelict former ABC Cinema which had stood empty for more than a decade. It is now one of London’s most popular independent cinemas. Mr. Walker-Hebborn made his bid for the EMD in the hope of repeating that success in Walthamstow but his offer was rejected.

“It would be entirely possible to bring the cinema back to life,” he said. “We regenerated and reopened the Genesis after it had been closed and left derelict for 10 years and proved that a successful business can rise from the ashes of an old one. I see the Walthamstow cinema as a similar project and there is no apparent reason why it couldn’t work”.

Walthamstow businessman Guy Davies was another bidder for the cinema in 2006. Mr. Davies is a local entrepreneur who was responsible for the transformation of Hatherley Mews into the Hiltongrove Business Centre which is now a hub for the area’s creative industries. He also helped revive the decaying former Leyton Town Hall as the Legacy E10 Business Centre.

“Through Hiltongrove I have made several bids for the cinema which have been rejected,” said Mr. Davies. “I have always believed and continue to maintain that the EMD can be revived as a viable cinema”.

Lyn Goleby, the managing director of City Screen which created the successful Picturehouse Cinemas chain, also issued a statement confirming their previous interest in the EMD. “Our work has shown clearly that the redevelopment of historic cinema buildings such as the former EMD in Walthamstow can act as an organic catalyst for wider regeneration,” she said. “These projects attract other businesses to the area and really stimulate the night time economy”.

UCKG’s claim that the EMD is no longer viable as a film venue has also been flatly refuted by the owner of Britain’s most successful independent cinema.

James Hannaway is the man who transformed the dilapidated Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted into what is widely recognised as the country’s most brilliant cinema resurrection of recent years.

“The stunning EMD could readily work in the same way,” said James Hannaway. “The special interest of the building could be protected as was the Rex. Local cultural and social interests would be reflected in the programming”.

James Hannaway believes a full revival of the EMD is an entirely viable proposition. In common with the EMD, the Rex in Berkhamsted is also a listed 1930s art deco cinema. It closed for a period of 16 years before its triumphant revival in 2004 and now caters for sell out audiences at least five nights a week. Mr. Hannaway believes the EMD would be an ideal candidate for a similar revival. “The Rex is the most successful independent cinema in the UK because it cares about where it is,” he said. “Walthamstow is already a vibrant area. Already it has lost its world-famous dog track to developers and weak planning. Don’t let it lose the fabulous EMD cinema. It is only inches from being big, bright, beautiful and buzzing again”.

Other cinema operators

Frank Challenger, CEO, Light House Media Centre, Wolverhampton:

“Working on a variety of projects, Light House is able to attract grants from many organisations. These have included the UK Film Council, the regional screen agency, the regional development agency, AWM, Screen WM, various employment/regeneration funds (recently, for example, Working Neighbourhoods Fund and Future Jobs Fund and so on) as well as ESF, ERDF and LSC. The continued support of the local authority has been essential in securing this external investment. The cinema is at the heart of this activity. It is professionally staffed but also has teams of volunteers, increasing the community’s involvement. Some residents have said that if Light House closed, they would move from the City! I expect Walthamstow has some similarities with Wolverhampton; the existence of cinema in the centre can assist in bringing communities together, drawing in support and recognition. It’s essential in the mix that makes for the thriving urban area”.

Lezley Picton, (Head of Arts and Heritage, Shropshire Council), Old Market Hall, Shrewsbury:

“The Old Market Hall is renowned for the quality of venue, facilities and Programme. The redevelopment brought life to a derelict building, empty for nearly 10 years. Its renovation breathed new life in to The Square which was experiencing many empty shops etc. Even now, in a recession there are no empty shops. Since the opening of the OMH there has been a marked increase in the number of A3 (Restaurant/Cafe) businesses including Loch Fine and three large cafe/coffee units have opened including Cafe Nero and Starbucks within 50m of venue – trade has not been affected, in fact it’s increased. Once a no-go zone, the area around this cinema has seen marked social and economic regeneration. The local evening economy has been particularly transformed and the success of the cinema has led to massive external investment towards a new £28 million pound state of the art theatre, Theatre Severn. The biggest complain we get is “I can’t get a ticket” – it’s a nice problem to have”.

Paul Homer, chief executive, The Phoenix, East Finchley:

“The Phoenix Cinema has been run by the local community since 1985 and has stood since 1910. The cinema is the heart of the community and frequently cited by local residents as a reason they move to and stay in the area. The cinema brings films from around the world to this corner of London, sharing stories that would otherwise not be told. The cinema has a major economic benefit to the area as well. Turning over in excess of £600,000 annually the cinema employs the equivalent of 12 full-time posts, as well providing work to local businesses including an electrician, a baker and a painter. As a venue for hire to community groups and businesses we help local charities to run events to raise money, including two royal visits with good PR for the area. We are recognised by our local council, Barnet, as an important organisation in the borough. We help to improve Barnet’s cultural provision, although do not receive any revenue funding from them. So it’s a win-win situation for them”.

Jemma Buckley, audience development officer, The Rio, Dalston:

“The Rio is an independent, single screen community cinema, operating as a registered charity and proud to be Hackney’s last remaining cinema. We are committed to providing as diverse a programme of high-quality cinema as possible, participating in many regional and national festivals to bring world-class cultural events to Hackney residents. We are viewed in Hackney not just as a cinema offering much needed access to the arts, but also as a provider of well-valued community initiatives and activities for local residents. Our schools screenings programme works with over 10,000 children and young people a year. While our diverse programming ensures we contribute to the cultural scene of the area, drawing audiences from across London, our wider activities demonstrate we are also a well-loved and much-treasured resource within the local community”.


Local Business people

John Norman, director, Academy Design: “Please can we have this beautiful old cinema restored as a beacon of pride and prosperity for the whole community”.

Andrew Goad, Churchill Estates: “We strongly feel that the community would greatly benefit from the EMD building in Hoe Street to re-open as a cinema. It would attract many people from the neighbouring areas. We also feel it would enhance local businesses and benefit the regeneration plan for the local area”.

Glenn Conn, Haart Estate Agents: “We at Haart feel that a revived cinema would certainly be the best use for the EMD building. It would benefit the local community and businesses and make Walthamstow a more attractive place to live.”

Manel Rahar, manager, Kaz Digital Services: “The cinema would attract more people to visit the local area and at the same time provide better opportunities for the local businesses to prosper such as restaurants, cafes and the market. The nearest cinemas are located in Ilford and Enfield, too far for people who do not have access to their own vehicles. There is nothing else around to keep people entertained”.

Aaron Clingham, director, Rose and Crown Theatre pub: “A fully operational cinema at the EMD site is necessary to the continued regeneration of Walthamstow and would be of vital importance to businesses and residents alike”.

Frank Escuder, Grove Cafe: “The cinema would generate more customers who would utilise the local amenities before and after going to screenings. This would help build a sense of community and cohesion. Walthamstow is a family-oriented area and any opportunity to reflect this should be seized upon positively to celebrate the best of our borough”.

Jonathan Gunses, director, The Language Business: “A revived cinema would be the best use for the EMD building. It would benefit local business and improve the area as a whole and make it a more attractive place to live and work”.

Stuart Arnott, director, Red Planet Multimedia Production Company: “I believe that retaining the EMD building as a cinema is vital to the community. A restored cinema would be a jewel in East London’s crown – a focal point for civic pride and a unique visitor attraction. A developed EMD would benefit a variety of local businesses as Walthamstow will become a destination to spend the day. I urge Waltham Forest Council to reject any endeavour to change the building’s use from its original purpose and to do everything in its power to allow it to remain a cinema”.

Ming Feng Li: Peking Chef: “I want the cinema to come back. It is good for children and good for business. Cinema benefits all the people who live in Walthamstow”.

Carolyn Abbott, organiser, E17 Designers Market: “There is a very strong case to show that a high percentage of residents would regularly visit a cinema that could serve the whole community. In a central space such as this, it could be a hub that brings opportunities to keep wealth in the borough as well as a brilliant space to meet for young and old from all parts of the community”.

Lyndsey Ward, principal, Vestry School of Dance and Performing Arts: “I strongly object to the application for the cinema to be changed into a place of worship when this borough’s residents would benefit more with a thriving cinema that would benefit the whole community”.