-08 Jun. 2020

Willmott Dixon to give Walthamstow landmark a new future

Willmott Dixon’s interior specialist Willmott Dixon Interiors is extending the company’s track-record for transforming iconic heritage buildings after being appointed as Waltham Forest Council’s construction partner to restore the Grade 2* EMD Cinema into a multi-purpose entertainment venue.

The art deco landmark in Walthamstow opened as the Granada cinema in 1930 and in its heyday saw performances from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and Johnny Cash.  After closing 2003, it became derelict but now has an exciting new future following the £18m contract award that will see Willmott Dixon Interiors transform the venue into a 950-seat comedy hub that is set to be reopened in 2022 by Soho Theatre.

In a sign of the times and a pointer to the new normal, Willmott Dixon Interiors utilised technology to get the scheme through the planning process.  This included presenting to Waltham Forest’s virtual planning committee via a Teams call that was livestreamed on YouTube for the public to watch, with further presentations and Q&A sessions to statuary bodies like the Met Police, Historic England and The Twentieth Century Society via webinar to ensure Covid-19 did not disrupt construction timescales for the cinema by delaying the planning process during the period of restricted movement.

The project follows similar schemes by Willmott Dixon to transform Grade 2* and heritage property across the UK into popular entertainment venues, including the Stockton Globe, Colston Hall in Bristol, Darlington Hippodrome, Octagon Theatre in Bolton and Eltham Cinema in Greenwich.

The intricate refurbishment will include reshaping the seating and stage to allow live performances with improved sightlines, while the ziggurat ceiling and the building’s frontage will be restored to their former 1930s glory.

Procured via the Procurement Hub framework, Willmott Dixon Interiors is working with the architects Pilbrow & Partners and QS Stace LLP on the project, with work carried out under the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Site Operating Procedures which includes social distancing measures to ensure the project is a safe environment to work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

EMD Cinema’s restoration strengthens Willmott Dixon Interiors track-record for heritage property renewal in London. The company is also refurbishing Old Admiralty Building adjacent to Horse Guards Parade and The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Recently, it upgraded the art deco Dagenham Civic Centre into Coventry University’s new London Campus, as well as turning the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington into a new HQ for the Design Museum and converting a former factory in Highbury Grove in Islington to create a new home for the London Screen Academy.

Graham Shaw, managing director for Willmott Dixon Interiors said, “We are delighted to be involved in restoring this historic landmark that is part of Waltham Forest’s heritage so it can once again be a popular venue for people to visit as well as contributing important income to the local economy.  Our team has configured the site to meet the latest guideless to ensure it is Covid-19 secure so we can carry out the refurbishment safely during the current pandemic.”

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