In 2019 Willmott Dixon Interiors (WDI) won Waltham Forest Council’s tender to refurbish the Grade II* EMD Cinema, an iconic heritage asset, into a multi-purpose entertainment venue for residents and businesses. Soho Theatre Walthamstow is set to kick off their first full programme in the 970-seat venue in 2024.
As industry leaders in the refurbishment and fit-out arena, social value is a priority within our projects. Our approach is encapsulated in our Now or Never Strategy, 2020 to 2030. For every penny spent, we seek to ensure the legacy of our work by investing in the local communities where we are active. As of April 2023, through this project we have delivered an impressive £5.33m Social Return on Investment (SROI) against the original minimum target of £2.16m, as set by the Procurement Hub Framework.
Our Social Value activities encompass local schools, colleges, and businesses. Recent initiatives include: –
- WDI worked closely with London Borough of Waltham Forest (LBWF) and supply chain partners to support local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This collaboration helped to aid SMEs in gaining an understanding of the build profile, and how to procure work with WDI and our supply chain. This result to date is that £6.6 million has been spent with local suppliers.
- Supporting local employment: We have supported 32 unemployed residents, providing basic qualifications – including Level 1 Health and Safety training, specialist construction training and work experience. This aided 19 graduates in gaining employment and through cross-agency partnership with LBWF, 41 local people secured employment in diverse roles, both with WDI, and our supply chain partners.
- Through partnering with organisations such as Women into Construction (WiC), WDI empowers target groups to explore careers within the Construction sector. Local resident Tamar Moseley gained employment following work experience and overcame the challenges of being a working mother who had been unemployed for four years. Read her story here.
- To support local community projects: WDI employees donated over 2000 volunteer hours to support local initiatives. This included connecting with 1203 local people through careers education events hosted by the council and local schools, as well as instigating employability workshops which engaged 133 young people. This included care leavers, college students and young people ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’ (NEETs). These workshops are designed to improve ‘Routes into Construction’. Recently, 40 students from Waltham Forest College attended an Open Doors workshop and site tour. The tour was recorded on YouTube and then shared widely with local schools. See here.
- Volunteers supported a Project Zero anti-knife crime charity to transform a disused area into an inclusive space. The project included converting a bus with internet access. These initiatives were co-designed to engage vulnerable young people, counter antisocial behaviour and promote employment opportunities.
- Employability sessions were delivered to Lime Academy Special Educational Needs (SEN) students. The team assisted in CV writing, team building exercises, and communication skills. These sessions are designed to inspire young people in employment opportunities, within construction.
- Volunteers worked with the Toy Library in Langthorne Park to improve access to green space. By cleaning the disused kitchen, installing new appliances, de-weeding the amphitheatre, and creating planters for fruit and vegetables, this made a positive contribution to health and wellbeing for local low-income families.
- 25 WDI, Council and local volunteers planted a Mini Forest at Mansfield Park, Chingford. See here for further details.
Our social value work continues during the fit out and refurbishment of the historic EMD Cinema in Walthamstow, transforming it into Soho Theatre Walthamstow, which promises to be a local theatre with a national profile. We are proud of the initiatives we have achieved to date, together with the lasting impact we have made to individuals and the overall community.