Well well well, what an exciting and historic night for Walthamstow last night was. It was the meeting for the application for planning from the United Church of the Kingdom of God to turn our beloved EMD Cinema into a place of worship.
I tunred up at 7pm and couldn’t believe there were already about 500 people demo-ing on the steps of the Town Hall and loads more arriving in droves. There were even two pipers (phwoar) in full kilt regalia banging out tunes, well I say banging, more strangling really! But who cares, we outnumbered the UCKG supporters by about three to one but as they were more organised, they managed to get into the hall before us and took up most of it. Not to be deterred, the people outside stuck around for two hours and continited to rabble rouse in voice and banging on the side door in fantastic fashion. I was trying to get a message out to the Editor of this website: “Get the pipers to play Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.
The atmosphere was excited but calm and we all took note of the sign on the door saying “No placards indoors”. The UCKG had an ace up their collective sleeve, just before the meeting started they all took out yellow fluorescent tabards and put them on, prompting the cyclist sitting next to us to take his off! Well done UCKG, you all now look even more ridiculous. So we supporters of the EMD all stood up chanting “We want our cinema”. It was pretty charged, I can tell you.
Then it was the turn of pre-booked supporters to speak, they were local residents, ward councilors, the McGuffins Society and the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust. About ten spoke against the planning application and quite frankly they were all brilliant.
The main points were:
- Problelms of parking for local residents living near by on Friday nights and Sundays when the UCKG have their services.
- The UCKG in Finsbury Park has bought nothing to the local area in terms of community or business benefits
- The UCKG have shown utter contempt for the local communting of Walthmstow by letting such abeautiful grade 2 listed building fall into such disarray to the point where it’s now on the UKs “At Risk” register.
- The UCKG’s planned Help Centre and religious bookshop will not be used by the local community on the grounds that it’s too evangelical for most secular folks. They are very separatist.
- There was no objection to them actually a having a church, just not in that building. There are hundreds places of worship in the local area.
- The current site is a prime site for the regeneration of Walthamstow – everyone mentioned this, we all want a decent night life in Walthamtow, something we currently don’t have. Having a cinema would be a massive benefit to the local economy and area as a whole.
Several ward councilors said they represented 10,000 people and not ONE had come to them in favour of the church. The UCKG in Finsbury Park, i.e. the old Rainbow where legends like the Sex Pistols have played, has an auditorium that holds 2,000 yet they only get about 200 in (this was apparently taken from their own figures). One said she had asked to meet with the church four times and they always refused.
What was interesting is that the UCKG bought the building BEFORE they had planning permission. Buy in haste, regret at your leisure.
One of the counillors on the panel (forgive me, I didn’t take notes that detailed) stated that he thought that NOT taking care of a listed building was actually an offence! So why for the last 9 years have they been allowed to get away with it? Surely some sort of fine is in order, or in leiu of that, give us back our building. The council had been given a petition with 450 signatures against the church and 10 for.
Then came the turn of the UCKG to speak, they had a paltry 4 speakers. Two heartfelt ones and two “leaders” and to be honest, it didn’t do them any favours. Saying that, no one could deny to be touched by the story of a 22yr old law student who as a teen was living in Leyton and gun running with gangs. His life was turned around after he attended a football match organised by the UCGK and subsequently their help centre. But, as one of our councilors pointed out, help like this doesn’t have to be in the form of evangelicalism as there is other help out there.
A lady of 42 said her life had been a disaster after her man walked out on her when she had an 8 month old baby, she told of how desperate and lonely she was. Funny how they always get you when you’re down eh? She said she was now totally sorted thanks to the church and about to get married but it was too far for her to travel to Finsbury Park to their other church. Really? Your life is that sorted that you can’t manage four stops on the tube?
Then came a UCKG Pastor, a Brazillian guy who was given an extended five mins to speak (most people got three). He was arrogant to the point of aggression when he shouted “..that building is OURS” promoting cheers from the balcony and utter outrage from us. The leader of the meeting slapped him down, then he overran on his time after being asked to wind it up twice so we just chanted over him “Off off off off”. God I love a bit of rabble rousing. Hung by his own petard, methinks.
Next their hot-shot lawyer stated that the building hadn’t be used as a cinema for 30 years. If you’re going to lie, at least make it in some way believable. Needless to say he was heckled quite a bit and not all by me!!
Then came the votes, two of them, both unanimously against the planning application by the UCKG. This is the third time they’ve appealed and won’t be the last – well that’s what they chanted as they were leaving. So it’ll be application/ reject until the Secretary of State steps in. They should just quit whilst they are not ahead. Outside it there was much rejoicing and jeering “We’re from here, where are you from?” being just one of the justified ones. A police line separated the two groups, but my, weren’t the coppers short? Must be cutbacks.
We all went to the Rose & Crown, they all walked to the tube because THEY DON’T EVEN LIVE IN OUR AREA. What right have they to wreck our only cinema? The gloves are off and I for one am happy to fight.