A former Wetherspoons in North London is to undergo a £3.3million renovation as part of plans to celebrate the area’s Black heritage. Brent Council has approved the funds to transform Harlesden’s Picture Palace into a cultural community centre, with reports suggesting it could include a reggae museum.
Located on Manor Park Road, the currently disused centre was acquired by the council back in 2020. After undertaking urgent repair work to prevent the building from deteriorating, it will now be used to celebrate the area’s cultural history.
The Picture Palace renovation is part of the council’s Black Community Action Plan, which was initiated after the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The chair of Brent’s planning committee, Cllr Matt Kelcher, has previously said the site could be used to host a number of events, such as a ‘pop-up reggae museum’ and other exhibitions.
Brent Council’s Cabinet approved the £3.3million of funding to complete the project at the latest meeting (September 11), which it claims will increase the number of community facilities available for the borough’s growing population.
At the meeting, vice chair of the Cabinet and member for regeneration, planning and growth, Cllr Shama Tatler, said: “A few years ago the council bought the site looking to create a long-lasting positive change in Harlesden for the benefit of the community that lives there.”
She added: “The Picture Palace building is expected to become a significant cultural and community anchor. The council has been working with a consortium of local organisations to deliver this exciting project.”
The £3.3 million will be used to fund the design and build contract, along with technical consultant fees and fixtures and furniture. It is expected that the main works on site will begin in early 2024 and be completed by the end of 2024.
Brent has the seventh highest number of Black residents in London, according to the council. It hopes the Black Community Action Plan can help address some of the inequalities certain groups face, such as the “disproportionate impact” in mortality rates of Covid-19 on Black and Asian communities.
Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammed Butt, said: “The Picture Palace is being refurbished to become a community facility for the Black African Heritage Community and will be shared with all communities.”
He added: “The building will be a beacon centre for education, skills, youth development, employment and skills development that will be driven by voluntary and community organisations in Brent. This is a long-awaited project that will benefit the entire community, Brent’s Cabinet is committed to making the project a reality.”