The story of a Redbridge cinema which acted as a place of worship for Jews in the 1960s and 70s is to be told with the help of Lottery funding.
The history of the iconic Odeon Cinema near the Gants Hill roundabout on the A12 will be explored thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is funding a project with Eastside Community Heritage and the London Region Workers Educational Association.
The Odeon served as a place of worship from 1959, and the Jewish community in Redbridge – the largest in Europe at the time – regularly filled it to capacity, with up to 1,000 cramming in on High Holy days.
“It was a focus of Jewish life,” said resident and community member Ray Kennard. “It was also very symbolic in identifying the concentration of Jews in the geographical locality of Gants Hill.”
The cinema stood for 69 years before it was demolished in 2003, to make way for flats, but it served as the Jewish community’s main synagogue for 21 years, with Ilford Synagogue housing the overflow.
Local historians will help exhibition organisers record the life stories of local people who went not only to watch a film, but to pray. Those memories will form part of the final touring photographic exhibition before being stored at the East London People’s Archive.