Wilton’s Music Hall in Wapping, Tower Hamlets, has secured an investment of £2.45 million in a successful initiative to save the building and keep its cultural spirit alive.
The Grade II listed building is on the ‘at-risk’ register of English Heritage, but following a successful campaign to raise £1.1 million, the first phase of the renovation project has already been completed. The second phase, which is already under way, is now secured by a £1.85 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant added to the £600,000 already raised as match-funding.
Frances Mayhew, Wilton’s Managing Director, said:
“Without the support of major funders like HLF, charities like ours would take years to raise these kinds of monies. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the support we’ve received from other sources, like Viridor Credits, Garfield Weston and Aldgate and Allhallows but this decision means that we can finally take the permanent steps needed to stop this much-loved building from falling down.”
The completion of the two-phased process will ensure that the venue preserves its original character and more than 150 years of musical history. Due to finish in 2015, the project will open up a further 40% of the building, currently derelict, making unseen spaces accessible for the first time, including a new studio.
Wilton’s Music Hall Trust, the charity responsible for bringing the venue back to life, attributes the success of the campaign to its “entrepreneurial spirit to survive and generate income from location hire, box office revenue and bar sales”.
As part of the appeal, the trust created a mobile application that it hopes will continue to raise funds for the maintenance of the hall, including sponsoring shows and educational activity. Launched in March, the app Wilton’s Mystery – A Fantastical Play costs £1.49 to download and is aimed at getting young people involved. Kate Mitchell, Development Director, said:
“It is thrilling to be able to embrace technology in our fundraising. Alongside our text and online donating, this is a great way for people to use modern technology to help the last surviving Grand Music Hall in the world.”
Wilton’s Music Hall are also using more creative fundraising strategies, including guided history tours, free jazz orchestra nights, art exhibitions and ping pong tournaments. Becoming a Wilton’s ‘Friend or Patron’ and donating to a specific piece of the venue is also an option.
The landmark building, originally an alehouse dating from 1740’s, was a saloon theatre in the 19th century until John Wilton founded the music hall in 1859. It had also housed the East London Methodist Mission by the time it finally reopened as a concert hall in 1997. Today, it also serves the local community through a number of social projects.
This is the second music heritage site in east London being saved through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund since last year, when Hoxton Hall was restored. Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said:
“This truly unique project will enable the rebirth of one of London’s most remarkable theatrical buildings. Once completed the restoration will enable a wide range of people to enjoy its authentic atmosphere and learn more about its amazing history.”
Wilton’s Music Hall promotional video: