Dalston man’s bid to set up a literary cafe receives backing from former poet laureate

Hackney resident Matt plans to set up a literary cafe and is currently in talks with TfL about using

Hackney resident Matt plans to set up a literary cafe and is currently in talks with TfL about using a railway arch in Haggerston as potential location. - Credit: Archant

A book-lover who decided to set up a literary hub in the heart of Hackney after being unemployed for six months has launched a campaign to fund his project.

Matt Wilson’s enterprise is being backed by a host of literary giants including poet laureate Andrew Motion, but he needs £23,000 to get it off the ground.

The 30-year-old, of Princess May Road, Dalston, wants to set up the library cafe to host literary and spoken word events, open mic nights, a book club, a library and book-lending service.

He also has plans for an on-site cafe and to produce a monthly anthology of writing by people in Hackney.

He said: “The current climate motivated me to set it up. I was looking for a job for six months before starting an NVQ in business and was not having any luck.

“So I thought about creating my own job.”

The Leeds university graduate, who has a BA in film, theatre and television, and a MA in literature, worked as a financial administrator in a bank before becoming unemployed. He then struggled to find a job within the arts and a passion for literature inspired him to set up the hub.

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He added: “I wrote a couple of novels in my 20s and didn’t get anywhere with them so I decided to use my skills in another way.

“Trying to bring a literary focus to the community is a good thing.

“There’s a few places in Shoreditch which have literary nights but nowhere that has a literary focus.”

Sir Andrew Motion is pledging his support with a reading from his latest work The Customs House on September 13.

He said: “Spaces like this, and the opportunities that come with them, are vital at any time. At times like this, they are essential.”

Other writers including author Ian Sinclair, who immortalised the borough in his book Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report; Newington Green based performance poet John Hegley and Ted Hughes Award-winning poet Kate Tempest, will also be doing readings in July.

Mr Wilson believed the support he had received was due to the idea of having a hub.

He said: “Something about the idea has captured the zeitgest in some way, particularly with regards to arts cuts.”

He is in talks with TfL about using a space under a railway bridge in Haggerston as a potential site.

Anybody wishing to attend the readings can offer pledges of financial support instead of buying tickets.

n For more information, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108460143/the-library-cafe-hackney.