‘Delighted’: One of Hackney’s leading cultural hotspots says its pandemic recovery efforts are ‘taking effect’

A tea dance at Shoreditch Town Hall. Photograph: Sean Pollock

One of Hackney’s flagship cultural hubs has revealed that its work to recover from the pandemic is “taking effect”.

The Citizen covered the devastating challenges faced by arts and music venues during the Covid lockdowns, as well as the national campaign to keep them afloat.

Now Shoreditch Town Hall, an independent events and community space set inside the Grade II-listed municipal building, has offered a ray of hope that, for some at least, the tide is turning.

Its latest report, which covers the period between 2021 and 2023, makes for positive reading.

Image: Shoreditch Town Hall

Turnover is sitting at around £1.1 million for 2022/23 – higher than each of the previous two years, despite finances in both of those years being boosted by emergency grants worth around £400k.

Event hires rose from just 15 in 2020/21 to 36 in 2022/23.

The proportion of audience members from Hackney is on the increase too.

The figures offer a stark vision of just how big an impact the pandemic had.

Beth Byrne, who took over as CEO in 2021 following a five-year stint at the Southbank Centre, said: “As the first report of my tenure, I’m delighted to demonstrate the Town Hall’s resilience and strength of recovery over the past three years despite the deep impact of the pandemic, Brexit, and the current cost-of-living crisis.

“Our dedicated staff have worked hard to welcome back artists, participants, audiences and clients and to better address some of the barriers preventing some communities from accessing our programme.

“I am proud that this hard work is taking effect and to have showcased some extraordinary cultural talents and fantastic shared experiences here in our beautiful Grade II-listed building.”

The Grade II-listed building. Photograph: Puds & Co

The venue has set out to become a pioneering centre of culture for East London, as well as to amplify marginalised voices within the community. Its activity over the past three years shows it is well on its way.

Twenty-seven local organisations have been supported with subsidised rates, including Hackney Proms, Shoreditch Trust, the Cocoa Butter Club, and the National Centre for Circus Arts.

The Town Hall also acted as a polling station in both 2021 and 2022, and hosted the council’s housing conference last November.

It welcomed 225 local performers when it staged the Hackney Carnival last year in its Assembly Hall.

Visitors have also enjoyed 54 accessible performances in various forms over the past three years, including some that were interpreted using sign language.

And the venue continued to be a home to artists, providing 76 individuals with free workspace and offering more than 4,500 hours of free or heavily subsidised rehearsal space.

For more information, visit shoreditchtownhall.com.