Sometimes, you just see something that is so inspiring and original that you think, yes, this is the reason I have spent 30 years as a bookseller, this makes it all worthwhile.
If you want to buy a book from us today, then a proficiency in the hurdles might be a distinct advantage.

Built for a Purpose. Bring Back the Rialto.


In the words of the great Donovan, first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is – no, we’re not exactly sure what he was getting at either, but it’s seem like a fitting sentiment when we consider the fate of The old Gala Bingo Hall on Church Road which abruptly closed it doors for the last time on an eyes down for a full house in early June.


Many of us in Transmitter-land have had a local cinema at the top of our wish list for the area for a very long time, and what better location for one could there be than the Gala a building purpose built in the art deco style as a cinema in 1928 with an interior by the renowned cinema architect George Coles. It was for many years the Rialto and then became the Granada, back in the days when there were two cinemas in Church Road (why on earth it was never called Cinema Road, we will never understand) and at least one other around the triangle.


So the news that City Screen, the country’s leading independent cinema operator, whose mission statement is to provide cinemas that serve their communities and who own and run both the Picture house in Clapham and the Brixton Ritzy had put in a substantial bid for the Gala seemed, like a dream come true. Almost every person we have spoken to, and we have spoken to a hell of a lot of people, agrees, this is exactly what the area needs and that the obvious regenerative benefits that it would bring to the triangle and surrounding area would be incalculable. Simply put, no other single thing could make a bigger difference to the community and the businesses of the area than this.


Unfortunately, City Screen was outbid by one of the wealthiest and fastest growing churches in the country the Kingsway International Christian Centre. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and there are similar instances of it happening in Wandsworth and in Somerset and a Brazilian church came very close to buying the Brixton Academy when it was up for sale a couple of years ago.


KICC who purchased the freehold on 30th June say that they are looking forward to turning the cinema into a thriving centre for the whole community and have dismissed rumours that thousands will be flocking to its services, saying that they expect congregations of 500 hundred or so. This is disingenuous on so many levels. They have apparently bought the church to replace one in Wimbledon, which in itself is a fair old journey to Crystal Palace. The cinema can accommodate almost 1400 people; is the church going to put a cap on their congregation should it rise above 500 per Sunday service, of which there will be 3. On their website they talk of taking territories, so that seems unlikely. What seems perfectly possible is that around 4000 people could be making the journey up the hill every Sunday with all that that might entail. It is difficult to see how this will benefit the existing local community, which is, lets face it, not exactly short of a church or two.


However, for the cinema to become a church Bromley council have to approve a change of use from the buildings currently designated D2 planning use. It is hoped that they will think long and hard about why, regardless of issues of faith, when there is such strong and genuine interest from such a well-respected company as  City Screen, as well as huge and ever-growing local support, for the Gala to revert to a cinema and fulfil the purpose it was originally built for, there is any proven need for this to happen.


Get involved and we just might make this miracle happen. To add your voice to the literally thousands of people already supporting the campaign to bring a cinema back to Crystal Palace visit the campaign website. The Facebookpage. Follow on Twitter.


[It became a Granada cinema in 1950.]


I wrote this for the last issue of the Transmittermagazine.


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