New £6.5m plan agreed for cinema at restored Ladywell Playtower

The Playtower in a state of disrepair Pic: Mike Quinn
View of proposed restored building, Ladywell Playtower Pic: Lewisham Council

A new cinema is once more being planned for Lewisham after the council successfully completed a fresh £6.5m agreement to restore the historic but crumbling Ladywell Playtower.  

The cinema was originally due to be run by popular cinema chain, Curzon, in an agreement with Guildmore, the development company appointed by the council in 2017. However, Curzon later withdrew due to the effects of the pandemic. 

A new outfit, ‘The Ladywell Cinema’ now have a fresh agreement with the council to run the planned cinema. They group is led by Lyn Goleby, co-founder of Picturehouse Cinemas, a chain of neighbourhood cinemas that was originally set up in 1989.  

Now self-styled as an ‘investor and active partner in… cinema-related businesses’, Goleby said in a statement: “I’m pleased to be working with Guildmore to help them bring a cinema to Ladywell. I hope it will make an important contribution to the economy and liveliness of the area”.   

“It is very exciting to be working on bringing back such a beautiful building to a vibrant new use and I’ll look forward to working with the local community”.  

The new project will be named the ‘Ladywell Cinema’ and will include an independent, four-screen cinema with a restaurant and bar. All employees will be paid the London Living Wage of £11.05. 

Guildmore, will be “submitting a planning application as soon as possible”, according to CEO Engin Ertosun. Subject to approval, work on the £6.5 million development aims to begin next year and finish in 2024. 

Mayor Damien Egan expressed his delight at the new plans, saying that “a new local cinema will be a fantastic addition to our community” and will bring “more good local jobs”. 

Ladywell Cinema will be one of just two cinemas in Lewisham. In July last year, Curzon also withdrew from running the cinema at Goldsmiths in New Cross, again citing the financial effects of the pandemic, leaving Catford Mews as the only commercial cinema in the borough.

The restoration work will also include 33 new homes in the east and south of the Playtower, as well as ‘affordable office space’ provided to Lewisham residents and workers at less than 50 per cent of market rates. 

The Playtower was originally opened as a swimming pool and public hall in 1884 and was “one of the first public swimming pools in the country” according to the council. After closing in 2004, the Playtower was badly affected by a fire in 2006 and has since been listed as an “At-Risk Heritage” by Historic England.

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