Curzon wins bid to build cinema in ‘iconic’ Ladywell Playtower

Ladywell Playtower. Pic: Mike Quinn

Curzon Cinemas and construction company Guildmore have secured the contract to build a new cinema in the Ladywell Playtower in a victory for local campaigners.

Protestors had been putting pressure on the council over its preferred contender, Picturehouse, which has been criticised for poor working conditions and not paying the London living wage.

Protestors gathered outside Lewisham Town Hall’s Civic Suite on Wednesday evening before it was announced that Picturehouse had not won the bid.

Alongside a 220-seat cinema with three screens, the new refurbishment will include around 20 new homes, a nursery, supported living facilities and 27 new jobs for the area.

Competition to win the contract for the cinema, housed in the Grade II listed Victorian bath house on Ladywell Road, was fierce, with over 254 applicants competing for the tender.

Local residents received over 8,000 signatures for their petition opposing Picturehouse gaining the contract.

Banner at the Ladywell Playtower protest. Pic: Elin Espmark Wibe

Despite the criticisms levelled against Picturehouse, a council officer said during the Mayor and Cabinet meeting where the decision was announced that the council was unable to make payment of the living wage a requirement for development proposals.

Robert Smith, a campaigner from the Ladywell Society, disagreed with the council, referring to its commitment to being a Living Wage employer. “It is our view that the council can use London Living Wage as a condition”, he said.

The Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock said at the meeting: “We have worked closely with the community in order to bring this historic building back to use after it was closed in 2004.”

Curzon is a London Living Wage accredited organisation, but Guildmore, which will be restoring the building, is not.

Guildmore has previously restored the Poplar Baths.

The council also raised concerns about the affordability of the new homes for low-income families.

The Ladywell Playtower is expected to open to the public by August 2020.

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