The Grand was established in 1900 by some of the most popular performers of the time. Launched at the height of the Music Hall, since then a cinema, a bingo hall and a nightclub, The Grand has always remained true to its original aim: to entertain.
A Palace of Varieties. This was what the residents of Clapham and Battersea were promised when the New Grand Theatre opened its doors for the first time on 26 November 1900. The first evening set expectations. Alongside musicians and comedians, the audience witnessed a family of acrobats, an ensemble of performing ponies, and a man better known for juggling banjos than for playing them.
The New Grand Theatre quickly established itself as one of London’s premier venues, attracting the stars of its day. Favourite performers included the scandalous Marie Lloyd and the diminutive Little Tich dancing in oversized clown boots. Even a young Charlie Chaplin graced our stage.
As future heroes like Chaplin moved to Hollywood, the Grand Theatre, as it became known in 1927, followed the trend, setting up a screen alongside the stage. By 1931 the venue was a full-time cinema. What could you have seen on the very first night? Laurel & Hardy chasing a stray goat.
In the ‘60s Londoners began to prefer their colour televisions to their cinemas, and what had become the Essoldo Cinema was transformed into the Essoldo Bingo Club. For sixteen years the people of Clapham and Battersea had a dedicated bingo hall until the building closed in 1979. But not before our fine building was Grade II listed in 1978 – saving it from becoming a Wetherspoon’s in the ‘90s.
The Grand reopened in 1991, having been restored to its former glory by promoters Mean Fiddler. Soon The Grand was a venue for bands about to break into the mainstream. Jay Kay lead Jamiroquai through their earliest hits. Courtney Love cracked jokes at her polite London crowd. And the Verve, fresh from trashing the US, brought the riot back to home turf. Even bigger acts followed in the ‘00s when Oasis, Muse and Brian May played to packed crowds.
In recent years The Grand has revived its original mission: the perfect blend of variety and quality. With themed film screenings or an irreverent take on bingo one night, and world-class comedians, musicians and DJs the next, we’re reinventing the best of the past for new audiences, you can check out our upcoming events HERE.
THE MUSIC HALL & VARIETY YEARS – ‘THE NEW GRAND PALACE OF VARIETIES’
We were founded by one of the kings of Music Hall Dan Leno (who created the role of the Pantomime Dame!), with the ambition of providing a stage and a venue for performers and locals of the Battersea Area. We held regular performances by all the Music Hall & Variety greats, from Marie Lloyd and the world famous Charlie Chaplin, whilst one of our managers, Walter Gibbons, went on to build The Palladium after cutting his teeth with us here!
THE BINGO TIMES – ‘ESSOLDO BINGO CLUB’, ‘VOGUE BINGO CLUB’ & MECCA BINGO
Yes, for 15 years we were exclusively a Bingo Hall! Initially run by independent groups, it proved so popular that the then big boys of Bingo Mecca took over, until they vacated our building in 1978. Little did they know Bingo would return to our venue in our present day incarnation with the globe trotting success story that is Bongo’s Bingo. A lot more confetti, booze and dancing than Mecca’s 1978 version…
THE LIVE MUSIC YEARS – ‘THE CLAPHAM GRAND’
We were lovingly restored back to our former glory by Vince Power and the Mean Fiddler Group, resurrecting us as a Live Music Venue. This saw world famous acts like The Kinks, George Clinton, Nick Cave, & Public Enemy grace our stage, alongside The Verve, Suede and The Manic Street Preachers all performing at the peak of their powers.’