Monday, 21 February 2011

The EMD 'Rave'

In Walthamstow we're host to a very special piece of cinema architecture known as the EMD Cinema, which has not been open to the public since 2003, though there is much local enthusiasm to restore it. It is currently lying empty and is vulnerable to damage from the elements and from intruders. It suffered from a rave party in 2003 and there were fears that another party was happening last Saturday night. A local resident - Caramel - has posted an account on facebook this morning of some of what happened and extracts are given below. (You can read her full account here, and you can read much more about the EMD Cinema on the McGuffin Society website, especially the 'story so far' page) 

I myself was around from about 10.30pm till 2am, and can confirm some of what she says - especially about droves of people turning up on the late trains. I've added a few of my photos from the evening - taken in low light so fairly basic quality. You may also have followed Stella Creasy MP's bulletins on twitter or facebook.

"As one of the people up till the wee hours on Sat night working to protect the EMD, I thought I’d give an account of what happened…
Sound equipment being unloaded, seen through the fence

One of our Cleveland Park residents noticed vans going into the Arcade site at 9ish (the rubble car park bit behind the blue hoardings). They seemed to have replaced the gate padlock with their own, they said they were squatters and they put up a fancy legal notice on the gate saying they intended to live there and couldn’t be evicted. Police said they couldn’t do much at that stage.

We contacted the police and also the council and MP. Within half an hour council leader Chris Robbins was here on site marshalling council officers to take action. Shortly after that, the squatters were seen to cut through the big metal fence between the Arcade site and the back of the EMD. It became clear that they intended to occupy the cinema and hold an illegal rave (there was one there in 2003, very soon after the UCKG church took possession of the building).

Stella Creasy MP and Council Leader Chris Robbins in discussion with the Legal adviser to the squatters
Stella Creasy, MP arrived soon after and together she and Chris did a great job of getting council officers and police to act fast and smart. Council workers used vans to block the entrances to the Arcade site which meant no more vans could get in. Police manned the front of the cinema and, once they had permission to do so, began stopping more people from entering. The council’s noise team arrived and served a legal notice against loud music.

Stella Creasy and squatters legal adviser Nick
Ultimately we think the rave was prevented because the squatters failed to get their generator inside so they didn’t have enough power for a sound system. We saw a generator on a van circling the block unable to get in. With no music, it was the rave that never was.

A hell of a lot of people did arrive though – the word having presumably been sent out on Facebook, text, etc – hundreds of people arrived on the last tube and then wondered around aimlessly looking for the party. Some snuck into the building, others wandered around like zombies. 

As I understand it, the Arcade site is now secure and just 10-20 squatters remain in the cinema, hopefully leaving soon. I’ll leave it to others (Stella, Bill from McGuffins) who went inside to report on the condition of the cinema. But I believe that – while there was superficial damage like graffiti from this and the 2003 rave – the far more worrying thing was the state of disrepair that the UCKG have let the building get into.

Finally, I can’t praise council leader Cllr Chris Robbins and MP Stella Creasy enough. Our most senior politicians coming along in person definitely spurred the police and council officers into working fast and working smart. It’s clear that, together with great work from police and council officers, we averted a massive rave that would have damaged the cinema more."

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