When I was 3 years old, I was taken to the cinema for the first time. The film was "Star Wars", and the cinema was Walthamstow. It signalled the start a love affair with cinema, (but particularly Walthamstow cinema, which I always regarded as "mine") and film (although my adulation of Star Wars ended when "The Phantom Menace" was released.)
We were counted in by the cinema manager, a man who we nicknamed "Hitler" on account of his stature of 4 foot 5 inches and who inexplicably checked how many of us could come in by smacking us soundly on our heads.
We bought our tickets; beautiful, snug rectangles of card, generally grey if memory serves, which we carried as if they were golden tickets for entry to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. We were ushered past the sweet concession stall, on account of the sandwiches we had smuggled in, wrapped in tinfoil (mine were haslet and concealed in my pocket) and a carton of juice each. We walked up the grand staircase, impossibly high to my three year old legs; marveled at the chandelier and walked, dumbstruck, to the viewing room.
We (my mother, sister, brother and I) took our seats (after careful checking by Mum that we had all gone to the toilet). I remember looking around the theatre and being in utter and complete awe of its magnificence. Mum told me that it used to be a music hall theatre. When I was older, my Nan told me Alfred Hitchcock used to go there. My Grandad had seen The Kinks there.
I stared around me, unable to believe just how wonderful the building was.
It started with an advert for Pearl and Dean, the tune of which transports me back to being the over excited 3 year old I was when I first saw it. The "upcoming features" were wonderful, and I remain one of the few people who refuses to forward through previews on DVDs.
The noise, the lights; the beauty of the theatre. Utter. complete, divine. Happiness; sheer happiness.
The sticky floors; the people sureptitiously having a fag in the back row (these being the days when the back row meant something).
I went to Walthamstow cinema fairly regularly afterwards. We lived in Chingford, and it was our local cinema. I even continued to go there when we moved to Loughton, and was an occasional visitor when we moved further afield.
When the cinema was taken over by EMD with the stipulation that only non English language films be played, I still visited.
This all stopped in 2003 when the UKCG church bought the building, closed it, and did nothing with it. From the point of purchase in 2003 until the current day, they have boarded it up and left it to slowly rot. The church's application to change the cinema into a church has been consistently rejected by the council, and despite many offers from interested parties, including cinema operators, UKCG will not sell the property on.
There's been a constant campaign, from the McGuffin Film Society, and Save Walthamstow Cinema amongst others. Tomorrow, Waltham Forest Council make a final decision as to its eventual fate. It has been UKCG's plan to convert the cinema into a church has been recommended against, but there will still be a debate and a vote as to what will happen.
Now look; you may have never even heard of Walthamstow, didn't know of its existence before reading this and had no idea it had a cinema let alone one that was closed.
But do you remember, when you were wee, going to your first film? The excitement and the noise; the sticky floors; the lure of the popcorn; the feeling of being miniscule in relation to the venue you were in? The epic films; the insanity of the impossibly huge screen that you were watching it on; the black circles that popped up to tell the projectionist to change the reel of film.
For that reason alone, Walthamstow EMD (nee Odeon, Granada et al) is worth saving.
If you are a local, there is still time to get your opinions heard by the planning committee, via your ward councillor. You can turn up to the protest being organised for 18th May.
Please help save "my" cinema.