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Why Hackney has always been ‘the place to be’

PUBLISHED: 17:47 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 17:47 28 June 2016

Hackney Carnival, photo Catherine Gillo 2006

Hackney Carnival, photo Catherine Gillo 2006

Archant

A new exhibition on how Hackney has always been “the place to be” and “done things in the biggest and best way” in the world of entertainment has launched at Hackney Museum.

Swimming in Victoria Park Lake Swimming in Victoria Park Lake

Residents are being invited to take share their memories and attend guided walks for ‘From cinemas to clubs and carnivals’, which tracks the history of pleasure and leisure here over the past 300 years.

Starting in the early 1800s, the exhibition shows how rich city merchants had luxurious second homes in what was then a “rural retreat”, where they would entertain friends and family.

Then by 1880 the population had increased dramatically with almost 200,000 inhabitants from a diverse range of backgrounds.

This was when the entertainment industry boomed, with music halls and pubs popping up everywhere.

The Standard Theatre in Shoreditch High Street The Standard Theatre in Shoreditch High Street

Museum officer and curator Rebecca Odell, said: “The museum has done a lot of exhibitions recently on the First World War, when it came to deciding a new theme we thought we could do with something a bit cheerful and we wanted to look at something radically different.

“Having a quick look at our collection we realised we had a wealth of material about leisure activities and how people have had fun in the borough over the years.

“As soon as we started researching we found out Hackney has always led the way. It’s been the innovator and done things in the biggest and best way and it’s worth celebrating.”

“It didn’t take long to realise what an amazing place Hackney has been in that regard.”

'Prime Bang Up' at the Mermaid Tavern 'Prime Bang Up' at the Mermaid Tavern

The country’s first ever purpose built cinema was the Amherst Cinema in Dalston, and the Standard Theatre was at its time the largest theatre in Europe in Shoreditch.

Meanwhile the largest area of marked out football pitches in Europe can be found on Hackney Marshes, and the first ever commercial television studio was launched at the Hackney Empire in Mare Street.

The museum in Reading Lane is running a summer programme of events with guided tours every Thursday until September 3, culminating with the Hackney One Carnival on September 11.

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