News Walthamstow

Empty Walthamstow Empire used as a makeshift nightclub by squatters

Police attended the scene early this morning and dispersed a large number of ravers. Squatters reportedly remain on the site

The front of the Empire Walthamstow. In recent days, film posters had appeared plastered on the inside of the cinema.

The vacant Empire cinema on Walthamstow High Street is being used as a makeshift raving spot by squatters, a councillor and local residents have reported on social media.

In a public Facebook post, councillor for the Upper Walthamstow ward Caramel Quin said: “Tonight [9th September] I’m sad to report that there’s an illegal party in the recently closed Empire Cinema in Walthamstow (the cinema chain went bust). I picked up on it online, attended in person to check it was true, I even went inside to see for myself. There is damage inside. I have reported it to police and to the council’s CCTV control room and basically done all the things that are possible at 1-2am. Police were on scene as I left.”

Cllr Quin added: “I don’t have a problem with people enjoying themselves but I am personally gutted to see young people – many of whom will be local and will have used the cinema – contributing to the damage.”

A local resident told the Echo that a group of ten young people were still milling around the entrance to the cinema when she walked past at 9.50am today. She said: “They were all under the influence. A guy who was completely out of it had a fire extinguisher with him and he set it off down the street.”

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, managed to get a glance of the atrium which she said was “strewn with rubbish”. She also said the glass doors at the entrance were covered in pink paint and film posters but added that she did not spot any damage to the doors or evidence of the cinema having been forcefully broken into. In recent days, film posters had appeared plastered on the inside of the cinema. It is believed that they have been put up by squatters or rave organisers.

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Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy shared a statement from police to Facebook. The statement reads: “At approximately 21:20hrs on Saturday, 9 September police received reports of an unlicensed music event taking place at a disused cinema building in High Street, E17. Officers attended and attempted to engage with the organisers.

“Given the number of people inside the venue a decision was taken to monitor the situation. A section 35 Dispersal Order was put in place until 11:00hrs on Sunday, 10 September allowing officers to exclude a person for up to 48 hours from the area. Officers remained on scene until those present at the event had left. There were no incidents of disorder and no arrests.

“We are aware that a small number of people remain squatting in the building; this is not a police matter and will be for the landlord of the premises to progress.”

Waltham Forest Council owns the building the vacant cinema is in. Both the council and the Metropolitan Police have been contacted for comment.

The cinema has been closed since 7th July when its owner Empire Cinemas Ltd suddenly collapsed into administration. The closure has left Waltham Forest without any multiplex cinemas.

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