Completion date in sight for much anticipated theatre in Walthamstow

Construction of a major new theatre in Walthamstow is expected to be finished by the end of summer ahead of a 2025 opening.

The developers are now eyeing late September as the finish date for the much-anticipated Soho Theatre in Hoe Street, which was delayed in November.

The 1,000-seat venue is at the core of the council’s vision for Walthamstow to become a “cultural corner” and will host a variety of events, from comedy nights to pantomimes.

With a view to fully opening in February 2025, the theatre will run a ‘welcome festival’ from November to showcase the refurbished building and upcoming events to residents.

Much of the work has been completed, according to a council report, with the next few months dedicated to adding the final touches.

The report states that by “early 2025″, there will be a programme of ticketed shows available in the main auditorium, as well as a cafe and bar.

Construction was delayed by a series of “construction challenges” facing developer Willmott Dixon, the company leading the renovation of the former Granada cinema.

A council spokesperson said at the time it had been to the “challenges of returning a much-loved Grade II* listed venue, much of which was unused and derelict for over twenty years, to its former glory”.

The developer has also faced “supply line issues” in the meantime, the acting strategic director for place, Joe Garrod, said.

Waltham Forest Council first drew up its business case for the theatre in 2017. Since then, both the expected economic benefit and the cost of refurbishing the old EMD cinema have increased by millions of pounds.

The venue is now anticipated to bring £61million into the borough in its first decade of operation, up from initial estimates of £46m. The project’s cost over the same period has risen from £19.95m to £30m.

Ahsan Khan, deputy leader of the council, said in early 2023 the “increased economic benefit was not proportional to the increase of the project cost,” but insisted it “still represented value for money”.

The council says its officers are also “working closely” with Soho Theatre, headquartered in Dean Street, to “maximimise” job opportunities for the borough.

The Hoe Street building closed its doors for the final time in 2003 and has been the subject of several campaigns. In 2011, residents and film fans set up the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust to see new life breathed into the historic site, which was once a concert hall that hosted gigs by The Beatles, and The Who.

Waltham Forest Council bought the venue in 2019 and struck a deal with Soho Theatre as operators.

It has since credited the investment with attracting the University of Portsmouth to the borough’s first ever campus in Walthamstow, and the receipt of £17m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter

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