As arts come to the rescue of Hackney property buyers, others mumble: Gentrification!

HAC©DA: Village Underground’s Auro, left, wants this former Konak/Savoy Cinema in Kingsland Hi St Dalston #Hackney, NE Lon to be Hackney Arts Centre © david,altheer@gmail,com 250717
Village Underground chief Auro Foxcroft, left, is turning this former Dalston cinema, pictured last summer, into Hackney Arts Centre
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Boys with guitars: the Hackney Arts Centre in its planned reincarnation

* UPDATE 21 August 2018: The venue is due to open next month September 2018 and its name shall be EartH — no, the odd capital H is not a typo and the whole stands for Evolutionary Arts Hackney


JUST AS FALLING property prices around London start to hit in Hackney, along comes a cultural scheme bound to add to the appeal of the area.

The rescue of a neglected 1930s cinema in Dalston with the stated aim of converting it to an arts centre has been accomplished with remarkable speed by a Shoreditch entrepreneur.

It was only last year that Auro Foxcroft, who founded Shoreditch’s Village Underground office-space and culture hub in 2007, unveiled his plans for Hackney Arts Centre (HAC).

Already his openness, which has included public tours of the building, has won him support from councillors and £3 million from investors to remake the decaying picture theatre as a 2,500-person venue. A charity has been asked to run educational programmes for youngsters with learning problems.

Foxcroft hopes “HAC will be a springboard for the next generation of creative talent” and that “local artists, thinkers and musicians will be able to get their message to a larger audience”.

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Built as the Savoy in 1936, the cinema closed as the Ace in 1984

Some decorations and other art deco features in the main auditorium, under-used for more than 20 years, will be restored, Foxcroft says. Two other sections of the old movie-house have been lately used as a bar-café, and the plan is for all three areas to be used variously for readings, comedy, debate, visual art, theatre and music — the kind of thing that happens at Village Underground.

Educated millennials often publicly moan about “gentrification” — as if anyone would want former cinemas to continue to crumble — while privately delighted that the kind of after-hours activity they enjoy will be on offer to them within walking distance.

Of course, the issue is more complicated than that. Yet it is noticeable how often change — eg, transport improvements — can enhance residents’ experience of an area, something especially noticeable to those who remember the dire dullness of Hackney during the Thatcherite 1980s.

Even supposed anti-gentrifiers and fundamentalist Conservatives would not want those stultifying times to return. They might, however, welcome the prospect of avoiding a property-price slip.

Village Underground founder Auro Foxcroft in his office © ∂å
Foxcroft in his Village Underground office in Shoreditch

David Altheer 270418

* Northern headbangers Pulled Apart By Horses will play at Hackney Arts Centre, 15 Stoke Newington Road N16 8BH map, on Friday 4 May 2018. To see a Hackney Arts Centre promotional video, press this link.

* Backstory: Foxcroft fundraiser pays offMovie music live in Shoreditch; Victim of its own gentrification; In a Pickle about Dalston gentrificationPictures © DavidAltheer [at], apart from band and Savoy pix. Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. 

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