News & Information

A Hoxton childhood - A rehearsed reading.

17.1 06/10/14. posted by Kyle Abbott

Hoxton Hall is holding a rehearsed reading of excerpts from A.S. Jasper’s memoir, A Hoxton Childhood, as part of its Discover Hackney partnership and the City of London’s remembrance of the centenary of World War I.

One of the more striking aspects of the WWI remembrance activities thus far has been the prominence of the “untold” and “forgotten” stories of the era.  Several events, performances, and programmes have tackled, head on, the peoples and struggles history has often overwritten or omitted.  Jasper’s personal narrative of his East London family’s experiences during the war continues this vein of “untold” stories.  The drunken or downtrodden East London stereotypes have oft been chronicled, but Jasper’s work takes what has typically been a people “written about” and bestows them an authorial voice.

Originally published in the summer of 1969, the underdog A Hoxton Childhood was “a first work by an unknown writer, a rather slim volume of personal reminiscences, set in the East End of London just before and during the First World War.”[i]  This list of disadvantages, however, only helped to mark A Hoxton Childhood as truly representative of the relentless East Ender.  The book “conveys the brutal treatment that Jasper received at the hands of his own alcoholic father William, causing the family to descend in a spiral of poverty as they moved from one rented home to another, while his mother Lily struggled heroically against the odds to maintain domestic equilibrium for her children.”[ii] 

Newspaper clipping from Mr Jasper's first visit to Hoxton Hall.

Tempering the book’s tragedy is Jasper’s own voice.  Jasper’s narrative style, written as an adult reflection on his childhood, rarely employs standard literary frill but relays the story with candour and simplicity.  In some ways, Jasper’s narration acutely demonstrates the Shakespearean connotation of “honest” in being true, but simultaneously humble.  As The Observer reviewed in 1969, “Mr. Jasper does not used a word which might suggest self-pity.  He is dry-voiced, dry-eyed, laconic, and one wonders how he managed to emerge sane and balanced from it all.”[iii] 

It is in this narrative aspect that A Hoxton Childhood transcends beyond a period piece.  As you read the work, you don’t simply swallow facts or visualise vivid description, but rather you hear Jasper’s voice—the voice of the East End—and immediately experience the constrictions, disappointments, and resiliencies of the Jasper family.  Despite the story being almost 100 years old, there is a strange familiarity in the world it presents: disparate wealth, unreliable work, unliveable wages, and stricken with war.  This relevancy, coupled with Jasper’s honesty, teaches us that the love and compassion of an East End family during wartime is no different than the love and compassion we hope for in our own families, and that if we can mimic their kinship and determination then we too can be, as Jasper eventually found himself, “surrounded with love and happiness.”

A Hoxton Childhood’s rehearsed reading will occur at 6:00pm on Thursday, 16th October at Hoxton Hall (130 Hoxton Street, N1 6SH).  Terry Jasper, son of the author, will hold a brief Q&A after the reading.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase.  Admission is free of charge; no booking required.


[i] “Stan Jasper—the voice the East End may lose before finding it” by Alexander McDonald (printer unknown)

[ii] “Remembering A S Jasper” by the gentle author (http://spitalfieldslife.com/2013/10/01/remembering-a-s-jasper/)

[iii] “Life with father” by Chaim Bermant, The Observer; 29 June 1969

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Refurbishment and Renovation.Going underground - The Basement.

14.1 25/09/14. posted by Melissa Dixon of FWA

FWA Restoration Ltd was appointed to carry out Phase 2 of the works at Hoxton Hall. This involves the ‘heritage’ works – the restoration and repair of the Grade II* listed Music Hall and its associated fixtures; the refurbishment of the entrance area; soundproofing the basement Music Room and the creation of new archive and reading areas, new dance and performance studio; and improved mechanical and electrical throughout the theatre.

On our first site visit back in February 2014, we fell in love with the 150-year old music hall, the last of its kind.  The theatre was so atmospheric that you could almost hear the echoes of past performances and see audiences reflected in the tarnished mirrors.

Whilst Hoxton Hall has continued to be used by the bustling Hoxton community for youth theatre and dance groups, FWA Restoration were inspired to return the entire building to its former glory and to return each of its historical element of the balconies, floorboards and ironwork to the condition it would have enjoyed in its heyday.

Our first activity was to soundproof the basement music room and the digital music room to bolster the support of the ceiling to ensure the safety of audiences in the music hall above.  

Music room prior to 2014 refurbishments

Music room prior to 2014 refurbishments.


In order to do this we; stripped out the existing ceiling and created new concrete footings, installed new structural steelwork and carried out timber repairs at the ground floor level.

FWA install beams for structural support.


An acoustic ceiling was suspended on vibration hangers to absorb the sounds of musical rehearsals from the basement rooms.  The new ceiling is supported by an additional two pillars and, to match current building regulations, we have strengthened the floor of the music hall from below to avoid disrupting the existing floorboards in the main hall.

And add insulation to the ceilings...


 The work took approximately eight weeks to complete and some of it was carried out during the school holidays and half terms. During these periods there were increased numbers of children and young adults attending classes so we had to be particularly cautious and considerate not to cause any inconvenience to these users of the building.  

The basement music room...in a state of disrepair...


The basement is now successfully completed and has been handed over as the first phase of our works.  Hoxton Hall Youth Arts now have a newly decorated area benefiting from new electrical and mechanical fittings, new surface mounted ceiling lights, new fire alarms and updated emergency lighting.  All walls have been replastered and painted and there are new carpets in both rooms.

The finished product! Our wonderful new fully equipped music room.

 

At a recent FWA site meeting, which was held in the refurbished basement music room, we were delighted to see all the musical instruments and racks of costumes returned to the room.  To see backstage areas of the old music hall being upgraded and returned to use for youth groups is extremely rewarding, especially as activities will now be taking place in fresh new surroundings which have been soundproofed so that participants in music groups can make as much noise as they like without disturbing other users of the building or audiences in the music hall above!

 

 

 

 

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Hoxton Hall Youth Arts - A Brief History

14.1 10/09/14. posted by Kyle Abbott

It’s autumn, it’s term time, and Hoxton Hall Youth Arts are in full swing. While we pride ourselves on the range and impact our youth work currently holds, we also remember that, aside from the music hall itself, Hoxton Hall’s youth initiatives are perhaps our longest lasting heritage programme.

 Hoxton Hall first began its youth work after its rather short run as a music hall when W. I. Palmer purchased the building for the Quaker Blue Ribbon Army (Temperance Movement) in the 1880’s.  During this period, Sarah Rae (wife of Blue Ribbon secretary J.T. Rae) formed the Girl’s Guild of Good Life.  The group targeted teenaged young women to provide an “alternative to crowded urban living and life on the street”. 

Domestic skills dominated the Girl’s Guild early programming, but the group’s breadth diversified after the Quaker Bedford Institute assumed control of Hoxton Hall (Palmer passed in 1893 and left the hall to the Institute along with £500 for repairs).  Under the Bedford Institute management, the youth programming of Hoxton Hall assumed a stronger social action focus, and, catalysed by a mission centre extension built in 1910 (now our May Scott Studio, Palmer Room, and Bedford Reading Room), soon expanded to include boys programming.   

According to our archives, it appears Hoxton Hall’s first “youth arts” programming was attempted during this era by the Girl’s Guild and consisted of a “dramatic group” that aimed to stage an annual play.  Looking at the financial records, it appears the plays were quite small in overall production, attended primarily by members of the institution, and viewed more as pageants than dramatic performances.  

 Girl’s Guild of Good Life programme booklet from 1942 

 

The world wars greatly refocused the youth programming at Hoxton Hall, and in the 1950’s-1960’s youth programming operated more as a social club than an arts institution.  The enigmatic (in our history) May Scott, sustained the youth outreach over this time, and continually grew the youth programming through this time extending it to sport, arts, and education.  

Hoxton Hall youth programming booklet cir. 1950’s

Hoxton Hall’s youth arts focus blossomed in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s when Hoxton Hall Friends Neighbourhood Centre hosted workshops for young people to not only perform plays, but to take active roles in writing and production as well.  During this time, the youth arts shifted from traditional theatrical styles and integrated technology, multimedia, and fringe-style participation into their performances.  

 Hoxton Hall Youth Arts poster for Makbet cir. 1980’s

Hoxton Hall’s current youth programming continues from the framework left by May Scott, and embraces the collaborative and productive spirit from the HHFNC.  In August, the Youth Arts completed its Summerfest four-week project titled “Shakespeare Shook Up” where over 30 pupils from each department (art, music, dance and drama) wrote, produced, and performed an original play in Shoreditch Park.  The play not only celebrated Shakespeare’s history and the theatrical lineage of the area, but—in our minds—authored the latest chapter in a Hoxton Hall Youth Arts heritage over 150 years in the making.  

We look forward to many more years of Youth Arts Programs for the creative young people of London!

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Restoration and refurbishment : Hidden Windows

14.1 02/07/14. posted by Karmel Edmonds

Our biggest discovery yet! Hoxton Hall and its 150 years of history is keeping us on our toes with discoveries around every corner…Our latest, perhaps most exciting and thought provoking unearthing’s - found one early morning in June, down an unassuming alley way ( Wilks Place) hidden from plain view on an underused side street just off from the main parade.

The fairly straight forward task of removing the brick façade from the wilks place side of the building in order to allow for weather proofing of the interior in fact, in turn led to the rather unceremonious uncovering of two very large sets of partially intact Victorian windows.

Wonderful large metal window frames with delicately etched glass windows, an echo of times gone and era's passed.

The windows tell a piece of part of the story of the hall, give us clues to our local history and the changing landscape of the local area. Why were these majestic windows bricked up and covered? Why such large grand windows on a side street of an alley way which is barely used now in 2014?

The remnants of these windows tell the story of a time when Hoxton Street was a very different place, the original building had a small entrance only as big as a normal front door at 130 Hoxton Street, the main entrance and audience facing front was originally on the Wilkes place side as you can almost make out in this picture :

The windows discovered  in June 2014 resemble greatly, those seen in this architects sketch which dates back to 1910 and which is presented by the architechts 'LoveGrove and Papworth' , on the far right you can makes out  the two large sets of windows as well as two smaller ones in the middle.

The question is now as we enter another stage of restoration and refurbishment in 2014 what is the most respectuful way to treat these marked parts of our past, should we hide our scars and blemishes, each of which signify character building moments in and echoes of the past or should we wear them proud and present them now as a long lasting momento of the Hall's achievments?

 

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VOICES FROM HOXTON HALL...A COLLECTION OF MEMORIES.

14.1 02/07/14. posted by Karmel Edmonds

Another entry in our series of memories from Hoxton Hall, as we try to create a snapshot of all the varied kind of people that we attract as a venue, a community space and the umpteen guises that our Hall has taken over the years. 

People and memories are central to our ethos and our moving forward. Here is a snippet from an ex employee

Siva Sagel - previous employee 

To me Hoxton Hall means DIVERSITY    

The things that bought me to Hoxton Hall were work and a passion to get a unique venue known to as vast an audience as possible, this included the variety of Hirers to visitors.

The thing that I will always remeber about the Hall is a sense of a living building, from one day to another you never knew what would happen when you walked through the doors, the building felt like sometimes it was breathing or sighing.

Watching  the Young people  going from workshops to becoming part of our staffing pool, offering us advice on projects, technology, listening in on the office gossip and joining in on the fun. And Finally everyone I have worked with from Staff to companies working with diverse skills, diverse events & mad people...mainly mad people

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Restoration and refurbishment : Strength and structure

11.1 20/06/14. posted by Karmel Edmonds

As an ageing body creaks and moans so too do the bones, ligaments and sinewy structures which hold together age old architecture. Lengthy consultancies and inspections have led us to undertake major, much needed works on the main hall - the heart and life source of the building and the charity.

Our proud hall is unrecognisable at the moment. This week has seen skilled scaffolding staff and our contractors erecting a large square nest of scaffolding in the centre of the music hall. The scaffolding will provide much needed access to each and every corner of the space so that attention can be paid to each corner of the hall.

The process of erecting the scaffolding was something quite wondrous which we have captured in this short time-lapse film which we present here for your viewing pleasure. (Please click picture below)

The floor below has been strengthened and the roof above has been stripped...Nipped and tucked and sanded down. Two and a half months have flown by, Hoxton Hall the music hall - centre for entertainment and public meeting is currently re purposed, the mornings are louder and the evenings considerably quieter, daytimes filled with the sound of cutting and sizing and building. Potential energy is being stored and our beast lays low resting and recuperating, ready for another 150years of it! 

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