Dalston's former arts hub Passing Clouds to reopen as The Jago
PUBLISHED: 16:07 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 17 January 2019
It's been boarded up for two-and-a-half years, but Dalston's old Passing Clouds arts hub is at last set to reopen - as community venue The Jago.
The lease has been taken over by locals Kwame Otiende and Salma Repa and the experienced venue manager Aaron Edwards. And a team is working round the clock to get it ready for the launch on Saturday next week.
The Richmond Road venue has been closed since the Passing Clouds crew went out fighting in 2016.
During its 10th anniversary celebrations that summer, landlord Landhold Developments had sent in bailiffs to change the locks overnight – but hundreds of members of the arts community descended on Richmond Road to take it back and occupied it for weeks. They were eventually evicted in the autumn but not before huge protest marches had been staged.
Hackney Council declared it an asset of community value (ACV) in October that year, signalling to any potential buyers that “this venue and the community that developed around it is important and should be considered in any future plans” (mayor Phil Glanville’s words).
That put some people off here was healthy competition to take on the lease, but The Jago team sealed the deal at the end of November.
Kwame, who has hosted numerous events in the borough through his pop-up bar Cordial in the Dark – and managed Farr’s School of Dancing in Dalston Lane – says some of the same Passing Clouds events will take place, but it is a fresh start.
“I used to go to Passing Clouds a lot,” he tells the Gazette. “I was running Farr’s School of Dancing and have always been in music and events.
“I reached out to their crew in October. I have a lot of friends who worked there and a lot of bands played for me also at Farr’s.”
The Cakewalk Cafe will be back on Wednesdays, with live swing and jive and dance classes.
Afrospot will return every Thursday with Afro jazz from Mulele and Kodjovi Kush, and there will be other similar nights championing genres from reggae to dance and house.
Kwame continued: “There was a protest about keeping it as a community venue.
“And it is – that’s not changed. It’s exactly what people protested for.
“It’s unfortunate it’s not Passing Clouds any more – I loved it and used to go all the time.
“The Jago will never be Passing Clouds but hopefully it will be able to provide something just as good.”
The new name is based on the 1896 bestselling book A Child of the Jago by Arhur Morrison.
“It’s about a slum in east London called The Old Nichol,” said Kwame. “One of the things in the book that brought everything together was that east London had a reputation, but it was also the most welcoming place in east London for immigrants.
“Passing Clouds was always about community and so I wanted to keep that focus on different cultures.”
To illustrate that, on the first floor Kwame is hanging quilts from the ceiling hand made by people from different cultures that now call the East End their home.
And the team is keeping it local too in terms of suppliers. The Jago will be stocking beers from breweries Five Points, Hackney and Freedom and Cold and Blac, a coffee liquer made by Tem Mellesse down the road.
Over the next week the work will include re-soundproofing the whole building and installing more toilets in the upstairs bar and chillout area for people who don’t necessarily want to watch the live music downstairs. A crowdfunder is also set to be launched to raise £20,000 for further improvements.
Kwame says he’s used his experience as a regular at the old venue to improve a few other things, too.
He said: “I thought: ‘What did I always think could be better?’ and remembered there was always a queue for the ladies toilet, so we’re installing some more downstairs.”
He’s also rounded up a lot of his old brass instruments from home and fitted wires through them to turn them into lights for the upstairs walls.
That room will also feature a wall dedicated to the Gazette’s most interesting stories from the years 1890 to 1958, when our printing press was based at the building. Not that we like to blow our own trumpet – it was their idea.