April 1, 2018
List of the key holders of Hoxton Hall from 1863 til the present day.
By Natalie Omari, Marketing & Sales Manager
Built by James Mortimer with a philosophy of ‘five per cent philanthropy’ to a commercial venture which he saw as offering social improvement to Hoxton. It was, perhaps, too high-minded and failed.
James Mcdonald had a music hall background. He carried out improvements and ran the hall with moderate success from 1866 until he lost his licence in 1871. The Hall as it is seen today, with all its subsequent alterations, is essentially McDonald’s.
William Isaac Palmer purchased the hall on the behalf of The Blue Ribbon Gospel Temperance Mission. The majority of their work focused on connecting with local people through social work and community engagement. Palmer was an heir to the Huntley and Palmer biscuit family and spent much of his fortune on charity.
The Bedford Institute, a Quaker organisation, focused on charitable works for the benefit of the local community. The use of the Hall for entertainment was sporadic during this period. The Institute incorporated it into a complex of new buildings in 1910. This marked the beginning of the Quakers involvement which remains to the present day.
The Hall became the eighth branch of the Association, and was used to focus on alleviating poverty in East London.
They provided practical help for the poor, encouraged temperance, and offered various religious activities. The Hall also provided recreational programmes of music by bands and choirs, and offered craft workshops and classes for all ages.
May joined Hoxton Hall in 1944 and took over as warden in 1957. May Scott was struck by the strong sense of community she found and decided to run a programme of activities which, while maintaining some practical elements, would concentrate on enabling people of all ages to socialise together and develop their artistic talents. As a Quaker she encouraged discussion and worked on developing a consciousness towards peace and internationalism.
At that time the main activities were a five mornings a week and consisted of a play club; an after school club; youth club; a pottery club; pensioners lunch club run by social services and a pensioners choir. Also holiday children’s play schemes with volunteer helpers from all over Europe and North Africa had been run for a number of years. There was also a range of artistic practical and practical activities for adults.
May also realised that the theatre had a great potential and she began to hire it out. The theatre was hired out to a variety of groups on an ad hoc basis.
Gilbert and George ran art classes in Hoxton Hall during this time
Terry Goodfellow became the warden of Hoxton Hall in 1974, and during this period the hall went though various construction projects. The balconies, which had been partly cut away over the stage, were extended to the end wall in 1976. The present ceiling was also created in this period as a replacement for temporary post-war damage, however, it lacked the original roof light.
Terry was a former teacher at Shoreditch Secondary school.
Chris arts pedigree was clear as a founder member of the leading feminist theatre company Monstrous Regiment 1975. As a director, she worked with the female physical theatre company Scarlet Harlets (now Scarlet Theatre). A key figure in the alternative theatre scene of the 1970s, she was a performer, writer and director who moved on to arts management and fundraising.
In the early 2000s, the hall faced a period of instability and uncertainty, particularly when Arts Council funding was withdrawn. Chris had the inspired idea of purchasing the adjacent building (Hoxton Works) refurbishing it and using the rent from the creative industries to fund the activities of the hall. Her determination secured the funding and Hoxton Works and guaranteed the hall’s future.
Hayley oversaw a period of financial stabilising and major investment in a now crumbling building in a major disrepair. White secured £2m over a 3 year phased capital project to repair and restore the building with funding from Discover Hackney, HLF and Arts Council England. She secured the Young Hackney contract developing a youth arts specialist organisation. The Hall reverted back to adhoc performance programming due to the reduced capacity (c100 seats) before and during the refurbishment works.
Major structural works were undertaken to ensure the building’s stability, a lift and new plant was installed in 2012 and in 2014 phase 2 included fittings that include fire surrounds, laylights and sunburners have been re-instated. By removing modern brick walls, cast iron windows have also been revealed on the original music hall face.
Karena Johnson is the current Artistic Director and CEO of Hoxton Hall, and aims to re-establish Hoxton Hall as an professional arts venue with community engagement at its heart, making a shift from hires to an artistically curated programme. Karena has worked for 20 years as a theatre director, producer and champion facilitator of emerging artists.
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