The new Art Deco Society UK Preservation group is made up of four society members.
Angharad Hart: I would say I have always been a ‘preservationist’ at heart. Even as a child, I was attuned to seeing the inherent value in buildings, old and new, appreciating the fabric, energy and care that went into designing and building them: not to mention the human element such as their social and communal importance.
Seeing buildings that were falling down, empty or lacking in maintenance, tugged at my heart strings and my interest was further cemented when I studied my postgraduate degree in the Conservation of Historic Buildings. I am proud to be able to work in the field or preservation, initially as a Conservation Officer and now as a National Listing Advisor for Historic England. My work actively encourages the proper maintenance and retention of nationally and locally important buildings and sites, to preserve them for future generations to enjoy, experience and learn from.
I also believe that preservation is even more important in the wider context of the climate emergency, given the embodied energy that existing buildings possess – by retaining and preserving them, we also respect the resources that have already been invested in their creation, and can reduce the need for yet more.
I am delighted to be part of the Heritage at Risk team at Art Deco Society UK and look forward to working towards the preservation of our Art Deco heritage, both in the UK and further afield, by campaigning and raising awareness of our rich and unique post-war architectural history. It is a finite resource and it deserves to be recognised and understood.
Karen Harvey: I joined the group having lived around so many deco beauties in the North West that were faded stars and needed a voice to help save them. The most significant of these I observed was the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, which I used to pass when I worked there in the early 90’s. Thankfully this has now been restored and is a focal point in the regeneration of Morecambe seafront. There are still many more Art deco buildings from cinemas to Lidos across the North West in other seaside resorts and cities, that need the ongoing protection from demolition and support to preserve them.
Rama Muraleetharan: Rama launched a campaign with his community to acquire and restore his local Art Deco cinema, the Embassy Cinema in Chadwell Heath, in 2017. In order to take the first steps towards returning the building to use as a cinema and to better understand its potential as an amenity for the local public, his team were awarded £15,000 from Power to Change Trust to commission a feasibility study. The study was carried out by the Independent Cinema Office and Burrell Foley Fischer with the intention of reviewing the business viability of running a cinema and live arts programme in the building, and the architectural feasibility of turning the distinctive building into a contemporary cinema and arts space.
The study yielded successful results, providing Rama’s team with the right advice and evidence with which to make their case to prospective partners and funders in order to advance this ambitious and potentially town-changing project.
After conducting further extensive Art Deco research with Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham and Havering’s local archives, Rama listed the Embassy Cinema as an Asset of Community Value and is actively pushing for more local heritage listings for unprotected buildings, structures and features in Greater London. Rama has pledged to continue working towards preserving and promoting the UK’s Art Deco heritage further.
Lauren Livesey (society secretary)