The Bishop of Stepney joined with the Mayor of Hackney and a leading Rabbi of the Charedi Jewish community today to celebrate the opening of a new “village hall”, as part of an initiative to improve the wellbeing of the community in Hackney.
The community figures spoke of the importance of solidarity and strong civic relationships as they kickstarted a community fundraising campaign for ‘Liberty Hall’, a new space accommodating a community kitchen, event space and a bike repair clinic, acting as a hub for efforts to bring people together from a range of backgrounds.
The Rt Revd Adrian Newman, the Bishop of Stepney, said:
“This new village hall is the result of many different community groups coming together with a common goal. So it’s fitting that it will provide a space for the people of Hackney to continue to build friendships and work with one another for the benefit of the whole community.”
The initiative will see an abandoned toilet block on Clapton Common, which has laid empty for more than 20 years, transformed into a 700 sq. ft. amenity named ‘Liberty Hall’, a play on the building’s mock-Tudor design and the tradition of citizens’ rights associated with common land. Its launch is the culmination of a five-year campaign by an alliance of community groups called Clapton Commons, including St Thomas’ Stamford Hill, and its Vicar, the Revd William Campbell-Taylor, who also attended the launch.
Its conversion was green-lit after receiving a grant worth £218,000 from Hackney Council, which will return the building to useable order. The estimated £70,000 required to complete the project will be raised through a crowd-funding campaign led by Clapton Commons.
Liberty Hall’s primary partner will be ‘Made in Hackney’, a charity that teaches healthy eating, food growing and cooking skills to those on low incomes. The project will create a community kitchen that, once completed, will support Hackney’s diverse community, enhancing social cohesion while helping feed a growing population in an ethical, environmentally sustainable way.
The project will also see the creation of a bike repair clinic, providing the local community with an affordable and accessible way of sustaining a healthy lifestyle, while supporting the growth in cycling in the capital – there are now more than 670,000 cycle trips a day in London, an increase of over 130% since 2000. The Common is also on a new cycle route from Walthamstow across Hackney Marsh to Manor House.
Along with the Bishop of Stepney, Hackney’s Mayor Philip Glanville also gave his support to the launch of the initiative, seeing it as a way of impacting the Borough’s problem with childhood obesity.