A £17 million refurbishment of a cinema closed to the public in 2003 is underway and the public got a sneak peak this morning.

Waltham Forest Council and its partners have pumped large sums of money into the overall of the former Granada cinema which sits in a Grade II listed building in Hoe Street, Walthamstow.

Today, members of the public were treated to a tour of the cinema as it is now and a virtual reality tour of what the cinema will look like when finished.

Comedian Shappi Khorsandi, a patron of the theatre company involved, was also at the one-day-only tour event.

Together with Soho Theatre, the authority hopes to have secured the future of the venue, which will be known as the EMD cinema, and leave a lasting legacy long after the borough’s tenure as the first Borough of Culture is over.

The venue has previously seen the likes of The Beatles, Duke Ellington, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Johnny Cash perform on its stage and today the doors of the cinema were opened to the public for exclusive behind the scenes tours.

The council is restoring the Art Deco venue and purchased the site a third of the way into the borough’s year as Borough of Culture.

Soho Theatre will operate the building as a new cultural venue for North East London once it opens again to the public full time.

The 1,000-seat venue will operate as a local theatre, presenting the biggest names in comedy plus theatre, performance, music, pantomime and community and education programmes.

Waltham Forest Council bought the building for £2.8 million from owners EMD Walthamstow LLP and it is expected the venue could add between £34 to £52million to the local economy over a ten-year period.

Renovation of the site is estimated to take around three years to complete and initial plans suggest events could be held on the site before the project is complete.

Work will start from May 2020 and the businesses currently operating from the EMD Cinema will close when the renovation begins.

It has also been announced this week that 13 new community art projects will be supported by council funding and 15 new artist commissions have been funded for local schools.

So far, through £550,000 funding, more than 125 community arts projects have been supported across the borough.

Shappi Khorsandi said: “After 20 years of running one of UK’s very best venues for comedy in Dean Street, this next step for Soho Theatre take shape is amazing.

“I’ve performed in the borough many times over the years. I’m so excited to see this historic Waltham Forest building be given a new lease of life. The ambition is to create the finest theatre for comedy in the UK sitting between London’s more intimate spaces and the bigger arenas – which is brilliant news for performers and audiences.”

Cllr Clare Coghill, Waltham Forest Council Leader, added: “Our residents feel such an enormous sense of pride being the first London Borough of Culture. Throughout the year, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of culture to bond our communities and celebrate our identity.

“As a council, we are committed to continuing using culture as a catalyst for the future, in our regeneration programmes, our schools and to support our makers and creators. The development of this magnificent old cinema embodies all these aspirations.

“I hope this venue, which inspired a young Alfred Hitchcock, will once again bring laughter, joy, and pleasure to audiences. And who knows – perhaps the makers, radicals, and creative superstars of tomorrow will be among the new generations to be inspired to create something amazing by this breath-taking venue.”

The council will also be investing a further £250,000 into schools to create new permanent artworks, introducing a new bursary programme to support the next generation of creatives in the borough and an ongoing commitment to continue the 850-person strong volunteer programme.