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.
Timeline of History
The New Grand Theatre of Varieties opens with an evening of performances, acrobatics and dancing ponies
South Londoner and star-in-the-making Charlie Chaplin catches one of his first breaks at the New Grand
Co-founder of The New Grand and known as “The King’s Jester”, Dan Leno regularly dolled up for his performances
The Grand Theatre becomes a permanent cinema. The first evening includes Laurel & Hardy’s goat-chasing caper, Angora Love
After the war, The Grand’s manager Nat Tennens brought back Carnival Nights: comedy, song, dance, prizes and surprises
The Essoldo Cinema remained popular through the 50s – especially with policeman wanting to avoid the beat!
Screen no more: the Essoldo Cinema reopens as the Essoldo Bingo Club. When it changes hands again they adopt a new name: the Vogue Bingo Club and install a false ceiling, cutting off the upper parts of the theatre.
Bingo giants Mecca take over our building, running it until the venue closed in 1979
Our fine building earns a Grade II listing from English Heritage
After two years of restoration (including the removal of a false ceiling) The Grand is given a second life as a live music venue
Jay Kay’s on the cusp of greatness as Jamiroquai prepare to launch their debut album
Suede host an AIDS benefit concert for the filmmaker Derek Jarman, with Siouxsie Sioux making a guest appearance
An emotional evening as Suede’s Bernard Butler returns to join Manic Street Preachers for an Imperial Cancer Fund benefit
Shane MacGowan and Nick Cave slur their way through a Frank Sinatra tune
Fresh from trashing hotel rooms in the US, The Verve return to home soil for a sweaty affair
The Grand is graced by the presence of the godfather of rock-’n’-roll, Chuck Berry
JD Wetherspoon’s buy The Grand, but permission to turn it into a huge pub is refused after the Theatre Trust, English Heritage and the Redgrave siblings team up to preserve the historic interior
The Grand is reborn as a nightclub. Each weekend Dr Glitz dishes out the disco to crowds that are queuing down the road to get in
Tables are turned on Jerry Springer, interviewed by a barely-conscious Paula Yates at one of the stranger evenings at The Grand
Oasis visit The Grand at the height of their powers. Rumours were the Gallagher brothers were well-behaved for once
A team of South Africans introduce the antipodeans to our venue, before setting up their own Clapham Grand in Cape Town
Jamie Cullum serenades friends and family at a special show at The Grand
After we barred him from the roof, Brian May takes to the stage for a Freddie Mercury tribute concert
The Grand poses an illicit Soho bar when Paloma Faith films her video for ‘30 Minute Love Affair’ here
Order, Order! George Clinton convenes Parliament in The Grand
Global mutant bingo crusaders Rebel Bingo kick off their two-year residency. Their mission: to change your life with a lot of balls and a mountain of confetti
Ally Wolf and Lynda Whyte take over the management of the venue. The Grand becomes home to London’s new wave of experiential entertainment
Sink The Pink, the UK’s biggest LGBTQ party, ushers in 2017 with a night (and morning) of fabulousness and hedonism
Award-winning comedian Luisa Omielan asks The Grand, ‘What Would Beyonce Do?!’ in a show recorded live for the BBC (sadly Queen Bey couldn’t make it)
Days before taking home two BRITs, Rag’n’Bone Man plays a warm-up show that confirms his star is on the rise
The Grand is proud to be an independently-run venue, re-imagining its rich history with adventurous programming encompassing live music and bingo, cinema, theatre and comedy.