It’s lights, camera, action for Big Issue-backed Savoy cinema transformation

The much-loved landmark, run by Village Underground is being transformed into £3 million, multi-arts hub Hackney Art Centre with funding contributions from Big Issue Invest, Triodos Bank and Arts Impact Fund

A much-loved Hackney landmark is being transformed into a brand new arts centre with the local community at its heart, thanks to funding from groups including Big Issue Invest.

The historic Savoy Cinema, an Art Deco gem which opened in 1936, had been converted into a snooker hall and bar in the Eighties, but swathes of the building remained empty for the last 30 years and were falling into decay.

Savoy Cinema
The Savoy cinema was transformed into a snooker hall in the Eighties before falling into disrepair

Now work is set to begin on converting it into a £3m 2,500-capacity multi-arts hub renamed Hackney Arts Centre (HAC), operated by innovative arts facilitators and venue operators Village Underground in partnership with socially driven arts charity Community Music, which has been improving young people’s lives in Tower Hamlets for 30 years through music production and learning. It is estimated that they will reach between 250 and 400 socially excluded young people in Hackney each year through HAC.

The revamp is being made possible with funding including £600,000 from The Big Issue Group’s social investment arm, Big Issue Invest, £600,000 from Arts Impact Fund and £700,000 from Triodos Bank.


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Community Music’s director Maricia Klincke said: “We are really excited to be part of such a landmark development. Over the past few years we have worked closely with the HAC team to ensure education, training and opportunities for the local community lie at the heart of this development. We are excited to see the plans come to fruition this year and begin building what we hope will be a great resource for the community.”

James Salmon, Big Issue Invest’s investment director, added: “We are so pleased to support Village Underground in bringing to live the vision of Hackney Arts Centre. We are particularly excited to see development of the partnership with Community Music, a model we expect will set a fine example of how the music and arts sector can deliver social impact.”

Warren Ellis Bad Seeds
Warren Ellis, of Bad Seeds fame, will be performing at Thursday's launch event alongside Sampha and Richard Russell

Two areas of the former cinema have been used as a bar and cafe recently, and will be completely overhauled, while the main auditorium, which was dilapidated, will see its Art Deco features restored.

The venue’s rebirth will be celebrated on Thursday this week with a gig at on-site venue Epic featuring Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds (left), Mercury Prize-winning Sampha and XL Recordings label boss Richard Russell, who will launch his new album Everything is Recorded. Artist Toby Ziegler’s video installation will also be on show in the mid-renovation main theatre.

Pic credit: Luke Hayes; Getty