What do you do with a crumbling cinema? That’s a question that has been bandied around in Walthamstow for years. The answer to that question is pretty simple actually, save it, that’s what you do with a crumbling cinema, save it and stop it from crumbling. Saving a cinema building seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it, you just need someone with money to buy it, and stop it falling down. Doing something with it, or should I say, doing the right thing with it, is all together a different story. The building in question is of course the old Granada/EMD Cinema, or as it is now known, Mirth, Marvel, Maud, on Hoe Street. The first question was answered by Antic, they came along, bought the building, and have indeed stopped it from falling down. In doing so, however, they have raised another question, shouldn’t this mighty building be more than just a pub?
There are people who demand that the auditorium should re-open straight away, they say that having a bar in the foyer simply isn’t the fate that this building deserves. I agree, mostly. This building should be more than a bar, but it also needs to be self-sustaining. Get it wrong, the place will close, it will start crumbling again, and we are right back to the beginning. Of course, in reality, it is already more than just a bar. It may only be the foyer that is open, but it hosts live music, DJ’s, a pop up shop in the confection booth, and this weekend, it was home to the E17 Designers market. You could argue that the owners are already doing a pretty good job of making the most out of this unconventional space.
Take the designers market as an example. This market has been a fixture in the Walthamstow calendar for a few years now. The market is a space where mainly local designers, artists and makers, can come together and sell directly to the public. In order for the market to work, it in turn needs a space that can accommodate it, and its customers, and is it goes, I reckon Mirth works really well. The market goes to Mirth, which brings people in to the building, who then support both the designers and the building its self. To me, that sounds like a win win situation.
It’s really easy to complain about the auditorium not being open yet, and it’s easy to demand on social media that the owners reveal their plans as soon as possible. However, there is an even easier way that we can check that the owners are doing right by the building, and that’s being in it. If people are in there, using it, and seeing how fantastic the building is, that makes it much trickier for the owners to do something to the old cinema that isn’t right. Events like the designers market bring people in to the space, who perhaps wouldn’t visit if was just a live a music venue, just a cinema, or just a pub.
I had intended to write just about the designers market today. But as I sat sipping my tea, I just kept coming back to this question, what on earth do you with this building? The world has changed around the old Granada. The golden age of cinema is dead, yet somehow this magnificent building has survived. How does this relic from the past, pay its way in the modern world? I hope that hosting events like the designers market, is an indication that the owners are taking a flexible approach to the use of this building. Ultimately, I think flexibility is the key to making sure Mirth has a future. It can’t just be a pub, or a music venue, or a cinema, or a theatre, it needs to be all of these things, and more. I would rather the owners took their time and secured a proper future for the building, than rush in to things, fail, and see the Granada boarded up again.