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Streatham Hill Theatre’s status as an “Asset of Community Value” (ACV) was confirmed by Lambeth Council

Exciting news came to Streatham as Streatham Hill Theatre’s status as an “Asset of Community Value” (ACV) was confirmed by Lambeth Council.

This is welcome assurance for supporters of the theatre’s future prospects as a community gathering place and arts centre.

Lambeth Council initially declared in July 2018 that Streatham Hill Theatre was an ACV. That distinction gives the Grade 2 listed building some protection from development. The declaration was subsequently challenged by the owner but was upheld following an independent review.

The current operator, Beacon Bingo, is looking for another company to occupy the space. Once its sub-lease, and that of the leaseholder, Mecca, expires, it will be down to freeholders Pollmount to determine what to do with the building. The Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre (FoSHT) would like the theatre to become a centre for arts, culture and performance for the community and ACV status allows the community to bid for the building should it be sold.

A week after the declaration was upheld, Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna took a brief tour of the theatre with David Harvey, chairman of the Friends. Photos of their meeting posted to Facebook also display the extraordinary interior with intricate plasterwork, pristine seating and lighting fixtures. Umunna showed his support and urged followers on social media to learn more about FoSHT’s efforts to revitalise the theatre.

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All this follows a flashmob of support on the pavement outside Streatham Hill Theatre on a chilly Sunday in late November. Despite the threat of rain, over one-thousand supporters showed up to make a simple statement to the owners and the community: “Save our theatre!” The flashmob was originally intended as a photo op but evolved into an impromptu rally with chanting, as covered by BBC London News.

It was in November 1929 that Streatham Hill raised its curtain for the first time. Seating some 2,500 patrons, and with a proscenium arch which was one of the largest in London, it could easily accommodate the largest touring companies including the Ivor Novello musicals which came direct from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Over the years numerous talents such as John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, Peggy Ashcroft, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine and Sean Connery were to grace the stage.

Damaged by bombing in 1944, the building was repaired and restored by 1950. Remarkably, on August 18th 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife made a surprise visit to the Theatre to see The Yeomen of the Guard performed by the D’Oyly Carte Company. The building went on to serve the public as a theatre until 1962. From then and right up to 2017, the building was used as a bingo hall, and currently hosts a slot machine lounge in the foyer.

Anyone wishing to support the ongoing campaign can join the Friends of Streatham Hill Theatre online at www.streathamhilltheatre.org.

David Harvey and Sean McCormack contributed to this article.

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