BY KIRSTY PURNELL
It could be curtains for a much-loved cinema museum after its NHS Trust landlord decided to sell its building on the open market.
The board at the Cinema Museum, in Dugard Way, Kennington, had been gearing up to buy the site from South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust after 19 years of leasing – but SLaM has now put it up for sale.
Award-winning director Ken Loach has backed the campaign to save the museum, housed in what was once the Lambeth Workhouse – where Charlie Chaplin spent some of his childhood. Museum managers said they had secured funding to buy the site but current practice for public health bodies means they must try to get the best price if they try to sell their properties – called “red book valuation”.
SLaM has not confirmed claims by museum managers that it agreed to sell the site to them before putting it on the market with Savills estate agents.
The museum said in a statement: “We completely understand the needs of the public purse, and of this hospital trust in particular to maximise their return on land disposal.
“It was for that reason we have always offered to purchase the land at a mutually agreed red book value, at a time convenient to SLaM.
“However, the hospital changed its mind at the last minute – categorically refusing to sell to us – preferring to sell our home on the open market with a view to a fast sale.
“This leaves us facing imminent closure within months.”
A campaign is now up and running and an online petition has gained more than 12,000 signatures , including from film director Loach.
Tony Coleman, who signed the petition, wrote on Facebook: “The Maudsley [SLaM] should understand the value of cultural history to the health of the populace as a whole.”
And Carol Fox wrote: “Disgraceful behaviour, stick to your promises. So many historic buildings are being sold and knocked down and London is losing its character.
Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey said: “I support the Cinema Museum’s desire to buy the site. SLaM has refused to consider anything other than an open market sale.
“I have written to SLaM to ask them even at this late stage to listen to the strong views of the community. This is a unique museum and should be preserved.”
The museum is home to more than one million movie stills, rare cinema memorabilia items and thousands of film and cinema magazines dating from the 1900s to today. They deliver therapy projects and host events for the hospital at no charge, as well as conducting outreach services with isolated and vulnerable communities, including with elderly and disabled people.
In the statement the museum said: “The trustees are committed to fighting for the future of the museum right to the final conclusion of this crisis – and we remain entirely confident that we will
A spokesman for SLaM said: “We are exploring options for the potential sale of the site. As part of this, we are in discussion with the Cinema Museum.
“We are aware of the museum’s situation and recognise the importance of its heritage and the contribution it makes to our community.
“As a public body, it is our duty and aim to sell these properties so that we maximise the value for these assets.
“This will enable us to invest in front line mental health services for the benefit of our service users in Lambeth and surrounding boroughs.”