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Hackney Arts Centre: Decision on old Savoy Cinema delayed after two-day deliberation

PUBLISHED: 12:35 22 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:29 22 June 2017

The Art Deco theatre is now derelict but Auro hopes to change that.

The Art Deco theatre is now derelict but Auro hopes to change that.

Archant

Decision on a major redevelopment of the old ABC Cinema in Stoke Newington Road has been delayed.

The newly built Savoy in 1936. Picture: Amir Dotan The newly built Savoy in 1936. Picture: Amir Dotan

As revealed by the Gazette in April, Auro Foxcroft, the owner of Shoreditch’s Village Underground, wants to transform the “hidden Art Deco gem” into the Hackney Arts Centre.

The picturehouse, which first opened as the Savoy in 1936, closed in 1984 and has since been split into individual premises. The multi-million pound project would bring it back under one roof hosting film, theatre and music – with 350 acts a year promised.

The application says the venue will be modelled on Camden’s Roundhouse, and will also have a “significant education and creativity element focusing on young people and the local community”.

A decision was set to be made yesterday (Wed) after a the initial meeting was adjourned the day before for running over the time limit.

But in the end the decision was deferred to the next meeting so more information could be gathered. The Gazette understands there has been disagreement between the police and the applicant about the maximum capacity that should be allowed in the venue – 1,000 or 500.

If it’s eventually signed off, the move would cast serious doubt over the future of current occupants Epic, Efes Snooker Club and the Turkish Islamic Association.

And neighbours also say the venue would threaten two cultural institutions; the Rio Cinema and Arcola Theatre, which are both within spitting distance.

But a report by consultants Make, on behalf of the developers, suggests otherwise.

The firm said: “Additional cultural investment will reinforce the outstanding but limited (and small scale) arts destinations in Dalston, such as Café Oto, the Rio cinema, Vortex jazz club and Arcola Theatre.

“However, Dalston needs more ‘flagship’ and ‘anchor’ venues and services (such as the impressive CLR James Library) to add weight and gravitas to the network of small venues, creating ‘cultural critical mass’.”

The application also argues the project will provide a “defining foothold” for the future of performing arts in London, which it says is “under siege”.

It reads: “London has lost half of its music venues in seven years, the rate of closures rising exponentially. Grassroots cultural spaces and affordable artist studios have fared no better.

“As the creative life is marginalised to the city’s outer limits, the soul of London is being decisively hollowed out.”

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