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Cinema Museum, home to Charlie Chaplin, campaigns for future

A historic cinema museum near Elephant and Castle is campaigning for an end to the uncertainty that volunteers say has clouded its future since the site was sold to a developer three years ago.

The Cinema Museum in Kennington is on the site of a former workhouse where British and Hollywood silent film legend Charlie Chaplin spent part of his childhood in the late nineteenth century.

The volunteer-run museum holds a collection of film artefacts and was visited by more than 20,000 people each year before the Covid-19 pandemic. It gives out thousands of free tickets each year and lets out space for free or at discount rates to local schools and community groups. The museum has been at Dugard Way, a few minutes’ walk south of the Elephant and Castle roundabout, for more than twenty years.

The site was sold by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust to property developers Anthology, the London branch of a larger company called Lifestory in 2018.

Anthology put in a planning application to build a 29-storey tower containing 258 flats, while committing to maintain the Cinema Museum. More than 450 people objected to the plans, saying the building would be too tall. Lambeth Council rejected the application and a further appeal also failed.

Turning down the appeal, the planning inspector said the plans would be “alien and incongruous”. The future of the site is now unclear. Anthology did not reply to a request for comment.

Despite the application being turned down, volunteers said they were still concerned about the future of the museum, which is on a short lease. A petition calling on local authorities and Lifestory to secure the future of the museum as a vital community asset has gained nearly 60,000 signatures at the time of publication.

A spokesperson for the museum said: “We ask those with the power – Anthology/Lifestory; Lambeth Council; the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) – to work with The Cinema Museum and the local community to put an end to the years of damaging uncertainty and agree a sustainable future for everyone on site.”


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