Short after its 100th birthday, the Golders Green Hippodrome has been sold for a third time, this time to an Islamic Charity. Concerns over this transaction have been mounting over the past months.
The famous landmark has been listed as a Grade II building for its special architectural and historic interest. Throughout the years it has been used for numerous theatrical and musical performances with its capacity for 1,500 people. The BBC owned the building from 1969 until 2003, before deciding to stop using it and searched for other more suitable and modern venues. After that, the building started deteriorating quickly and potential buyers were welcomed. In 2007 it was bought by El Shaddai International Christian Centre, which used it as a church for nearly 10 years. In July this year, it was bought by the Centre for Islamic Enlightening, serving the Shia Community in London. The venue is now intended for activities for young and old, conferences and seminars.
Last month the centre submitted an application in order to change the status of the building to a ‘place of worship’. A petition against it has gathered more than 5,000 signatures and around 200 complaints have been recorded by Barnet Council. The majority of concerns are about future congestion and air pollution resulting from increased presence at the Hippodrome.
However, some have voiced their concerns about having a Muslim place of worship in the heart of one of the largest Jewish communities in London. Some of the objections sent to the public consultation are alarming to many. Comments such as: ’we don’t know what they are preaching as it’s all in Arabic’ and: ’this will result in violence and terrorism’ have raised a lot of questions.
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of the Golders Green Alyth Reform told the Guardian about the troubling nature of these comments. He raised a point about the importance of the diversity in the area, where Christians, Muslims and Jews have been living peacefully together: “It’s a special place to live in and we all get along together. That’s what London is about”. The centre has plans to hold an open day and welcome people from all background in hopes to change the spirits in the local area.