A team hoping to turn an old Dalston cinema into a thriving arts centre is crossing its fingers that Hackney Council will give the proposals the thumbs-up.
Village Underground (VU), which already runs a culture venue in Shoreditch, has submitted a licence application for the creation of Hackney Arts Centre in the refurbished Savoy cinema on Stoke Newington Road.
Commenting on the site, VU founder Auro Foxcroft said: “We found out about it about two years ago when we met someone who was using the derelict space to store some kit. We asked if we could see it and arranged a meeting with the owner and it was love at first sight.
“Through the darkness, the clutter, the holes in the ceiling and the rat and pigeon poo, we could see beautiful original features that were crying out to be restored and have life breathed back into them.”
An ambitious 28-page proposal states that the new venue “will be a multidisciplinary arts centre working across music, theatre and performance art, with lectures, talks and debates, comedy, performance poetry, dance and other cultural events.”
The document also details plans for a café, restaurant and bar.
Village Underground defines the core idea as “a Roundhouse for East London”, referring to the popular 1,700 capacity venue in Camden.
Foxcroft added: “There are three spaces within the building, which will have their own programming strands, everything from theatre, inspiring lectures and debates, music, comedy, performance poetry and lots in between.”
VU’s proposal makes much of the calibre of artists and other cultural happenings they have presented in the past – from the music of Father John Misty to talks from the likes of Jon Ronson, Katharine Hamnett CBE and Owen Jones.
But the team also wants the arts centre to be a boon for local residents, who they hope to involve in the project’s evolution.
“We really want to reach out and work with the many different communities in Hackney,” Foxcroft explained. “And there’s going to be a strong education programme with a focus on young people and creative skills and activities.”
The Savoy opened in 1936 and later became the ABC cinema, as illustrated by our October 2016 feature on Hackney’s lost cinemas. Following that, it transformed into both the Konak Cinema and the Ace Cinema before closing entirely in 1984.
Many will know what used to be the stalls area as Efes Snooker Club, and the site is also home to Epic’s events space, and the Turkish Islamic Association.
Foxcroft moved to allay concerns over the future of these existing organisations, saying: “We met them through looking at the theatre space. At the time, they were looking into selling up and moving on. We worked together for the last year and so the project grew from the theatre into the other areas of the building.
“The people behind Efes have another project close by and we’re going to continue putting on the community events and markets in the Epic space.”
Those who wish to support or otherwise make a representation to the council on this application must do so before 4pm on Friday 14 April.
Village Underground has created a guide on how to support the plans, which can be found here. A public consultation day will follow at 10am – 4pm on April 23, at the location itself./ 13 April, 2017