Rivoli listed by English Heritage

The Rivoli Ballroom on Brockley Road has been listed by English Heritage (the government's statutory advisor on the historic environment), which has awarded the building Grade II status, which gives the Rivoli significant protection from developers who might want to change or demolish the building.

Kate's already posted this news in the comments section, but we now have confirmation from English Heritage and a copy of report (dated December 21st), which gives the reasons for its listing as being:

* special architectural interest for the highly-unusual interior of 1958, the total effect of which luxuriant, exotic and deeply theatrical

* special historic interest as an eloquent and unusual witness to the era of American jive and swing bands, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Rock'n'Roll, alongside the continued popularity of traditional strict tempo ballroom

* a rare surviving example of a once common conversion of an early C20 cinema to a

Grade II buildings are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. Listing is not intended to fossilise a building. A building's long-term interests are often best served by putting it to good use, and if this cannot be the one it was designed for, a new use may have to be found. Listing ensures that the architectural and historic interest of the building is carefully considered before any alterations, either outside or inside, are agreed.

The report also includes some interesting historical background:

The Rivoli Ballroom was built in 1913 as the Crofton Park Picture Palace to designs by a Henley Attwater. Like the great number of local cinemas built in the early C20, it was a simple structure comprising a barrel-vaulted auditorium, accessed through a foyer from the street. The Picture Palace was refaced in the inter-war period - the Art Deco-style stepped parapet and decorative urns dates from this time - and a café was added; it was renamed the Rivoli Cinema in 1929.

The widespread popularity of television and the tendency for cinemas to be managed by chains led to the closure of many small or independent cinemas from the 1950s onwards. A great number of auditoria were converted to dance halls and subsequently to bingo halls or nightclubs as tastes in entertainment changed over the second half of the C20. On Boxing Day 1959, two and a half years after the screening of the last film (The Nat 'King' Cole Musical Story on 2 March 1957), the Rivoli Cinema reopened as the Rivoli Ballroom. The refurbishment had been carried out by a local businessman and dancing devotee, Leonard Tomlin, whose relative had been a lesee of the cinema in 1917. The original plans, approved by the local authority in September 1958, survive and reveal Tomlin's ambitious scheme for the interior which included a Canadian maple sprung dancefloor, crystal balls hanging from the ceiling, fixed seating around the auditorium and a side bar with booths. The makeover was clearly a success and in 1960 permission was sought for extension of the premises to include a member's bar. The building has been little altered since 1960, aside from an extension to the rear, and is still in use as a dance hall. In recent years it has become increasingly sought after by popular musicians for concerts (White Stripes) and video shoots (Elton John); attending a dance at the 'spectacular Rivoli Ballroom' is listed on Time Out's list of 101 things to do in London.

The listing is a commendably swift response from English Heritage and a great result for local campaigners who have done a fantastic job of highlighting the threat to one of the area's most important venues. As the report notes:

There are likely to have been later additions to the building and to the décor and without a site visit it has not been possible to ascertain the precise nature of these changes. The photographs used for the assessment, the original plans of 1958, and information from local historians and residents, however, has revealed that the majority of the decorative scheme and its most significant components described above, date to the original scheme of 1958.

Listing is not the end of the story, of course. The long-term future of the Rivoli depends on it being able to demonstrate a long-term future and that means, among other things, the support of the local community in which it stands.