A trip to EartH

EartH arts centre in Hackney, red entrance on the left for upstairs, blue entrance on the right for downstairs. Photo by unrestrictedtheatre

It’s so inspiring when you see a beautiful building being brought back into use after years of neglect. This is just what has happened to EartH, (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), hidden away in Dalston.

Built in 1936 as the Savoy cinema seating 1800 in a lavish Art Deco style, it survived into the early 80s before closure and later subdivision for a range of activities. Finally, in 2017/8, the building was brought back together again and after much work and cleaning, the spaces now consist of a first floor cafe/restaurant, a downstairs “black box” venue (in the former stalls) for concerts and music events for between 900-1200 people, and the best of all, in the former balcony, a 720-capacity arts/ performance/ cinema space which retains its richly decorated ceiling and the top half of the proscenium arch. Its current condition might best be described as “arrested decay”.

Interior shot showing upstairs space with laylight and richly decorated ceiling, photo unrestrictedtheatre

The fabric of the building has now been stabilised which has taken much effort in areas such as roofing, plasterwork, cleaning and many other areas which visitors cannot actually see. Although the circle space has yet to be restored, it’s easy to appreciate the volume, scale and quality of the decoration which has thankfully survived decades of neglect.

I visited EartH courtesy of the Cinema Theatre Association and their superb visits organiser Ken Roe. We were very fortunate to meet Josh, the enthusiastic House Manager who gave us a very warm welcome and spoke with genuine affection for the building, about making friends for the facility and also of ambitious plans for the future.

Savoy cinema original auditorium at opening in 1936, photo courtesy EartH website

Josh mentioned that the group who own the building have another large scale venue nearby, and we agreed that to find a venue this size in Dalston is a precious discovery, and one that will be much in demand; this, they have already proved with a packed programme of events practically every day. One point Josh made is that they never schedule events for the two spaces at the same time, bearing in mind the potential for “sound bleed”, and Josh mentioned that they have ambitions to address this in the future.

Together with the reputation EartH is already making for itself as a popular venue, and the friendly and enthusiastic management team, I feel confident that EartH is in safe hands. Thanks for your welcome, Josh. Let’s all wish them much success, and eventually- the money to do that upstairs restoration!

Savoy Cinema at opening in 1936, photo courtesy EartH website

Find out more about EartH and its events calendar here


To find out more about the great work of the Cinema Theatre Association and how they help to preserve our building heritage, visit their website here

Ceiling decoration detail (apologies for darkness of image) Photo by unrestrictedtheatre

119-year old Camden theatre beauty gets facelift

Work begins…. (photo taken March 5th by Unrestricted Theatre)

Housed inside a Grade II-listed London theatre, popular Camden music venue Koko announced its closure ahead of a £40 million refurbishment, which will involve the purchase of buildings either side of the venue to expand into rehearsal and performance spaces, a broadcast studio, restaurants and shops in another example of the continuing trend towards vertically integrated entertainment offerings. Thankfully the original listed auditorium will be unaltered in the refurbishment.

The building started life in 1900 as the Camden Theatre, opened by the leading star of her day, Ellen Terry, and designed by leading theatre architect W G R Sprague, originally seating over 2400. In 1909 it was reborn as the Camden Hippodrome, a variety theatre and in 1913 became a cinema, which lasted until World War Two. Purchased by the BBC in 1945, it became a radio theatre, the chief recording home of hit radio shows such as The Goon Show and many others, and it was in pretty much continuous use for over two decades.

When the BBC moved out in 1972 (to relocate to the Golders Green Hippodrome), the building lay empty for some time before being revived as concert venue The Music Machine, later retitled Camden Palace and most recently refurbished as Koko in 2004. Its current capacity is around 1500.

Let’s wish the owners every success and look forward to a long and successful future life for this Camden beauty.

Read the story run by the Evening Standard here

Koko in 2016 (photo courtesy Philafrenzy)

Dame Diana Rigg

March provides a chance to share An Evening with Dame Diana Rigg in London. Tickets and more information can be found here.

This event reminded me that whenever I travel by air I am most grateful to Dame Diana. Some years ago she compiled a book entitled No Turn Unstoned, subtitled ‘the worst ever theatrical reviews’. And she has found some real stingers, although I am glad to say that the contemporary theatre world’s high standards gives very few opportunities for this kind of criticism anymore.

Whenever I travel I always take it as a calmer (I am not a good flyer) and rather than well up with anxiety, this little book has given me many smiles and at time outright laughs just when I need them most. You can dip in and out of it very easily so it is the perfect travelling companion (alongside a husband/wife/significant other/ partner/ gigolo/gigolette/ farmyard animal (if that’s your bag)) As you can see, my copy is well-travelled and somewhat dog-eared.

Bought for me by a dear actor friend, it is still available- only in second-hand condition, I would imagine- on Amazon, abebooks and lots of other fine online booksellers.