The oldest surviving Grand Music Hall venue in the world has been denied vital restoration funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Fund did however award nearby Hoxton Hall a grant of £207,400, which will allow them to apply for a further £2 million.
Wilton’s Music Hall, in Graces Alley, had applied for £2.25m. The Grade II listed building had been previously rejected for funding in 2007.
Having opened in 1858, the original venue ceased performances in 1880. It was then taken over by a Methodist Mission that ran until 1956. The venue now hosts performances again, as well as guided tours every Monday.
Despite this, 40% of the building is not accessible to the public. The whole of the second floor is boarded up and unsafe for public use. Additionally, repairs need to be carried out to the brickwork and the leaking roof on the bar floor.
Also Grade II listed, Hoxton Hall will use the funding to update performance spaces and accessibility throughout the building. The funding will also enable the venue to widen its community engagement programme.
In an official HLF press release, Chief Executive Carole Souter made the following statement:
“Wilton’s Music Hall is a unique and precious part of our theatrical heritage. The Trust’s plans were well articulated and ranked highly for our support.
However, this was a competitive round of funding – three times over-subscribed – and, in spite of huge enthusiasm for the project, we simply did not have enough money to fund it in this round as other projects were even stronger.”
Since the decision was made (25th May) more than £170,000 has been raised for Wilton’s Music Hall by donations from supporters. Despite this, the amount of money needed for the restoration has been stated as £3.8m.
To date, the HLF has made 215 awards within the borough of Tower Hamlets, totaling £58.6m.
By Rob Greer
Read more on this story by Goldsmiths student Charlie Cooper in the Independent.