Iconic grass roots music venue re-vamped by young volunteers

The Macbeth Pic: Sean Russel

The 100-year-old facade of The Macbeth public house could have been carved from a Dickens tale- a sore thumb among a row of new-builds, off-licences and take-away joints in the centre of Hoxton,

But despite the dusty exterior, this is a place that has made a name for itself within the live music scene through years of hosting legendary acts. Tucked into the intimate space, crowds have seen acts including Florence and the Machine and The XX, and have been smacked around by the sounds of Pete Doherty and Annie Mac.

However, years of financial strain for the venue, in Hoxton Street, made much-needed refurbishments impossible to afford, and so the London Assembly injected funding into its regeneration which was carried out by Volunteer It Yourself volunteers.

A spokesperson for the GLA told Eastlondonlines: “The Macbeth is an important part of Hoxton’s nightlife and music scene, and we are happy to have supported to the venue.”  The venue hopes to receive funding from Arts Council England to complete the works in the New Year.

The volunteers worked on the venue alongside professional tradespeople; the bathrooms have been restored, the bar and staging areas redecorated, and the shabby dance floor varnished. 

Alan Dalton, who mentored the group, told Eastlondonlines: “[The volunteers] get to learn skills in a real-life environment in a setting that matters to them and members of the community. That means they get to learn how trades really work but also take added care and pride in their work.” 

Umar Mansary, 19, who was a volunteer on the site, told Eastlondonlines: “I’ve really learned a lot. I enjoyed having my own responsibilities and completing a job like this is very satisfying.” 

Home improvement store Wickes, who donated tools and materials, told Eastlondonlines: “The project has seen a greater than normal amount of support… it’s been an inspiring initiative, helping an iconic music venue get back on its feet, but also because the works the have been extensive.” 

Mark Robinson, owner of The Macbeth, told Eastlondonlines that he hadn’t realised how worn down it had become, and said: “It’s made a difference for sure. People have a much more positive reaction to the place now- it just feels better.” 

The refurbishments also enabled the venue to secure £15,000 further funding from Arts Council England’s Supporting Grassroots Live Music grant.  

Armand Wysovki, manager of the venue, told Eastlondonlines that this funding has allowed the venue to focus on booking home-grown acts and niche forward – thinking creatives, without worrying about the financial risk.  He added: “This venue is at the centre of what is left of the music industry in Shoreditch. There aren’t many music venues that still aim to keep live music alive.”  

Sonny Green, 24, is rapper and anti-knife crime campaigner. He is also the host for Trouble Tounges, an unapologetic and intense night of music and spoken word held at The Macbeth every month.   

Sonny Green and his band, left: Alex Bourt, 33 middle: Sonny Green, 33 Right: Ciaran O’Fathaigh, 40 Pic: Lois Borny

He told Eastlondonlines: “We need as many grass roots venues as possible because they bind communities together, reduce crime rate and inspire people from all different backgrounds to indulge in arts and culture. Fundamentally they save lives.”   

Chris Kristaps, 31, bartender at the venue, told Eastlondonlines that artists need venues like The Macbeth to express themselves and feel free from judgement.  

He added: “It’s a place where you come in and you feel like home.”  

Chris Kristaps Pic: Lois Borny

The GLA’s initial investment was part of a wider scheme launched in 2018, which poured £200,000 into 35 grass roots music and culture venues across London.  

The number of grassroots music venues in London has risen in the last year after a nearly a decade of decline, figures released in July showed.  

In a statement, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “For too long we have been the number of grass roots music venues in London fall dramatically…That is why I am working hard to support these venues in the face of rising rents, rates and development.” 

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