Dalston black literature bookshop Centreprise vs Hackney Council: Court date set

A unique community and arts centre in Dalston is under threat of closure, as Hackney Council prepares to take the charity to court next month over a rent and lease dispute.

The disagreement between Centreprise which is based in Kingsland Road and its landlord, the council, began two years ago, when a legal notice was served to raise its rent from �520 to �37,000 a year in June 2011.

Until then, the 42-year old institution and bookshop, which specialises in black history and literature and runs creative writing courses, had been paying a peppercorn rent of �10 a week.

A spokeswoman for Hackney Council said: “We would much rather that this issue with Centerprise did not end up in court, but the current rent of �10 a week for a double shop-front, two floors and a basement on a busy high street is not a rent level that could continue for any organisation.”

She added they had offered Centreprise several chances to apply for discounted rent under the council’s voluntary and community sector lettings policy, but despite encouragement they had not taken this up.

However, The Gazette has seen emails sent by Centerprise to Hackney Council in February, showing the bookshop offered to pay �9,000 a year for the premises.

“We are prepared as we speak to enter into negotiations with them, before the court hearing to have this matter resolved,” said Centerprise chief executive Emmanuel Amevor.

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However he believes the premises were bought by Hackney Council in 1984 for the sole use of Centerprise, with a capital grant awarded to the arts organisation by the Inner City Partnership Fund.

The charity has already pent �10,000 fighting the case and needs to raise another �9,000.

The hearing at London Central Court is scheduled to take place on October 15.

With the court date looming, Centerprise is calling upon the Hackney community to support its cause by spreading the word and writing to Hackney’s elected Mayor Jules Pipe.

An online petition has received 1,200 signatures in the last 10 months.

Radical King’s Cross bookseller Housmans, which has signed the petition, has called Centreprise “the only bookshop in Hackney dedicated to radical thought.”

To view it go to www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/savecenterprise