Shout from the rooftops: Hackney Empire Artistic Director Yamin Choudury. Photograph: Katherine Leedale
Hackney Empire’s artistic director Yamin Choudury says the money will help the theatre minimise its environmental impact. Photograph: Katherine Leedale

Two of the borough’s best-loved institutions are big winners in the latest round of grants handed out by Arts Council England.

The Hackney Empire and the Geffrye Museum are two of just 12 organisations in London to be awarded funding as part of the Arts Council’s Capital: Small Grants programme.

The Empire has been given £400,000 and the Geffrye £147,050 – money that will go towards building and equipment improvements, in line with the goals of the funding scheme.

An upgraded hearing loop, energy efficient boilers, better auditorium facilities, equipment and lighting are the focus for the Hackney Empire, which wants to increase its environmental performance and enhance its audience experience.

Artistic director Yamin Choudury said: “Through enhancing the facilities in our auditorium and building and increasing our access capabilities, we can even further broaden the scope of work we can present and produce and how audiences and participants can engage with us.

“The improvements will minimise our environmental impact as well as making our services more sustainable as an organisation, ensuring that our beautiful Grade II*-listed building can be a home to all for many years to come.”

A scale model of the renovated Geffrye
A scale model of what the Geffrye will look like after major renovation work

The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton will use the cash to create a new studio space, which it says is key to delivering its new contemporary arts programme.

The work forms part of the Geffrye’s ongoing overhaul which will open up previously unseen areas of its 300-year-old almshouse and bring in sustainable elements such as a green roof.

Museum director Sonia Solicari said: “This generous grant from the Arts Council will allow us to develop the historic site to host more cross-arts programming and engage new and wider audiences in the Geffrye Museum of the Home.

“It will also help us to be more economically sustainable – using new spaces to generate income and reinvest in our growing offer.”

Geffrye Director Sonia Solicari in her office. Photograph: Hackney Citizen
Geffrye director Sonia Solicari in her office. Photograph: Hackney Citizen

The Arts Council grants range between £100,000 and £499,999, with factors such as building digital capacity, outreach, environmental performance and financial resilience taken into account in the application process.

In total, 46 organisations across the country have seen some of this year’s £12.3 million budget for the Small Grants programme. The next round is expected to open in Spring 2020.

Joyce Wilson, Arts Council England’s London director, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the improvement of facilities and equipment at The Geffyre Museum of Home, and at Hackney Empire.

“This will help them continue to produce and present great work for the benefit of the artists, audiences and the communities of Hackney and beyond.

“Both of these projects incorporate works to improve audience and visitor experience, make the facilities more environmentally sustainable and strengthen the financial resilience of each business.”

To find out more about Arts Council England’s funding programmes, head to artscouncil.org.uk/funding


The coronavirus outbreak sadly means the Hackney Citizen is unable to print a monthly newspaper for the first time in its 12-year history.

At a time when independent and trusted news is more important than ever, this was an incredibly difficult decision to have to make.

Without print advertising, our major source of income, a one-off donation from anyone who can afford it will help our small team keep the website and social media feeds running through this unprecedented crisis.

When Hackney and the wider world has fought off this virus and we return to some semblance of normality, the print edition will be back.

Find out how you can donate

Thanks in advance for your support, and stay safe.