One of the hidden wonders of London can be found on the Mitcham Road, Tooting. Now an outpost of Gala Bingo, this 1930s treasure was once the Granada cinema and music venue.
It's the only purpose-built UK cinema building to carry Grade I listed status. When you step inside, it's easy to see why.
Every inch of the building, from the light fittings to the exit signs, exudes class. The interior was conceived by Russian stage set designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, and it does look somewhat like a theatre set.
Even the corridors sparkle in a way you wouldn't expect from a Tooting bingo hall. This is the main corridor to reach the upper levels. It's fitted out like a hall of mirrors.
The Granada was not only a cinema; it also doubled as a music venue. Some of the biggest names in showbiz played the stage including The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Roy Orbison, the Bee Gees and even Frank Sinatra for his debut UK performances.
The growth in TV audiences (spurred on by the Granada company themselves) led to a decline in cinema visits. By the 1970s, the box office was taking just 600 bookings per week. The cinema closed down in 1973 and was threatened with demolition. Good sense prevailed, and the building soon reopened as a bingo hall — in which capacity it still thrives today.
Take a look inside next time you're walking past. Even if bingo's not your thing, you should be able to explore the building unchallenged if you swing by between sessions. Guided tours are given every Open House weekend in September.
Gala Bingo, 50 Mitcham Road, SW17 9NA. Nearest station Tooting Broadway (2 minute walk).
With thanks to the London Society for arranging access.