“We are thrilled to announce that the Crown and Sceptre has re-opened. The new team are set on bringing the community back to the pub and restoring its good old days by reconnecting with the locals. Expect new weekly events, live music, DJs, a tasty new food & drinks menu (including cocktails!), pub quiz, themed nights and more, and you can catch all the sport across its 5 60 inch LED screens!The 500 square foot pub is also available for private hire, and offers 9 fully kitted-out bedrooms for any guests looking to stay.
To celebrate we have reprinted John Cresswell’s fascinating book The Streatham Hill Theatre: The story of a suburban theatre.
This issue is a facsimile of the original book published in 2000, using some original covers left over from the original print run. The number of copies is limited by the available covers. You can buy your own copy at our online shop.
If you didn’t look at the floor level it could still be a theatre. The seats of the dress circle and upper circle still in situ. The mouldings still etched out in gilt, somewhat faded, the columns and the boxes. The non-smoking area was on “the stage” with nailed down benches and tables in bright blue rather like a British Rail cafeteria. In fact, stage left was a café depicted by a neon sign, in case we hadn’t realised, selling sandwiches, soft drinks and even hot meals.
On stage right there was a row of one arm bandits where punters jammed in their one-pound coins in the interval. Some of the original doors remained at the back of the stage, and I imagined the corridors to the dressing rooms and wondered if they were still intact or cordoned off due to health and safety.
I gazed out from the stage, feeling the tears well up as I remembered my father Jack singing “I’ve got a Motto” in The Arcadians, with me watching him from the stalls on my birthday in 1956, and the cake I had backstage afterwards.
Somehow the birdie song was not appropriate. Did no one else feel this loss of theatre?
Back in July 2022 we heard that the theatre freehold had been sold again, to Ruach City Church. Since then, we have held our AGM and Campaign meetings to update and discuss our plans. Ruach have been in touch with The Friends and some of us met with them recently. We have also been in touch with Lambeth officers and Councillors, Theatres Trust, and the theatre company who lost out on acquiring the building.
The campaign is continuing with the same aims, but now we are able to engage with the building owners, which was not happening before, and those owners want the building primarily as it is and not as a development opportunity.
Ruach plan to use the building for their own purposes, as a church and centre for their South London congregation, currently meeting in Brixton. The Brixton site has been sold to pay for the theatre, which they have apparently been interested in acquiring for many years. They tell us they love the theatre and want to keep the scale and décor for their new home. They have a larger Grade II* cinema in Kilburn which they converted to a church some years ago, which is likely to be a model for Streatham Hill.
Ruach have a target to bring the auditorium into use in the next two years, then continue to renovate the rest of the building. It’s early days and they will need to go through planning permission/change of use and listed building applications. It seems likely that they will aim to save the heritage of the building itself. It remains our aim to ensure its heritage as a theatre is preserved, its inherent capability for future use as a theatre is not disabled, and that capability is encompassed by any renovations.
The aforementioned theatre company have now been introduced to Ruach, and we obviously hope for a positive outcome from any talks between the two organisations.
Our campaign is still seeking community access to see and use the building in a meaningful way, alongside Ruach’s own uses, for arts/culture and community activity as outlined by our aims and vision.
In the short term we have asked Ruach if they might open up for Open House or the Streatham Festival this year, and if there might be opportunities to use the building while they are planning and designing their renovations.
We will continue to talk with Ruach, Lambeth and our Councillors, Theatres Trust etc. as Ruach go through that planning process to do all we possibly can to meet the campaign aims.
Jill Stanford is the daughter of Jack Stanford the Dancing Fool, who was an eccentric tap dancer mime artist.
She has wonderful memories of going to the Streatham Hill Theatre to see her father in a production of the Arcadians, which she recounts in this interview with our Memories project lead Stephanie Black. There’s a transcript available (PDF).
Our first AGM as a CIO and Charity was held on 13th July 2022. The minutes, reports and other documents are available here.
The meeting was followed by a regular campaign meeting, which focussed on the recent changes of ownership of the theatre freehold, and the likely implications to the campaign. It is early days, so we expect things to develop over the next few weeks and months. We will keep you updated through emails, social media and campaign meetings. Meanwhile, the campaign will continue researching the new owner’s plans, and preparing for potential planning applications, working with other key stakeholders.
We heard on 29th June that the theatre freehold was to be sold again, and this was confirmed on Friday 1st July. The property company Hold Land South East Ltd who recently bought the theatre for £2.76m as a medium to long term investment have sold the building on to Ruach City Church for £4m.
The church plan to use the theatre to relocate from their current Brixton Hill church – they announced the purchase at their gathering on Sunday 3rd July – you can see the video here.
Obviously this will affect the campaign! We will need to understand more about the circumstances, engage with the various organisations supporting the campaign, and reach out to Ruach to understand their plans and their implications.
Please do come along to our AGM where we can provide the latest information and talk about how we move forward.