Almost 100,000 people have visited Shoreditch Town Hall since it reopened as a multi-million pound arts venue in 2011. Most would have passed below a statue marked ‘Progress’ that presides over the main entrance; the architect’s nod to the progressive nature of the local government for which it...
Almost 100,000 people have visited Shoreditch Town Hall since it reopened as a multi-million pound arts venue in 2011.
Most would have passed below a statue marked ‘Progress’ that presides over the main entrance; the architect’s nod to the progressive nature of the local government for which it was built.
But if progress is the ethos at this venerable institution then there could be a case for a second statue erected in the name of Nick Giles, who will step down as the venue’s director at the end of the month.
Few periods in the building’s 150-year history could be considered more transformative than the last five with Giles at the helm. He took up the post in 2011 following the completion of extensive restoration work to the dilapidated building; which has hosted everything from boxing matches in the 1960s to the inquest of Jack the Ripper’s last victim Mary Kelly.
His aims for the building were ambitious: injecting this non-traditional theatre space with non-traditional theatre and performance makers, establishing it as a key off West End arts space and a cultural destination for the local community.
In the past two years alone the programme has included new work from Kneehigh Theatre Company, Andrew Schneider, Spymonkey, Royal Shakespeare Company, and Vincent Dance Theatre. Under Giles’ directorship, the venue has welcomed 96,000 people through the doors for 190 productions, 18 new commissions and 40 premieres.
“It’s been especially rewarding to welcome thousands of audiences to the building to experience the artistic and participation programmes we’ve built here since I joined,” he says.
“Especially those from our local community who previously had no reason to come through our doors.” Giles will also leave a lasting financial legacy for the building, trebling annual turnover from an average of £340,000 five years ago to £1.1million today.
As the venue has never received revenue funding from either Arts Council England or London Borough of Hackney, he established a predominantly self-funding model underpinned by an expanded commercial events business, including bringing in the now Michelin starred Clove Club as a tenant.
This model allows the venue to support 85-90% of its core running costs and has funded, along with investment raised for projects, the development of the arts and community programmes. The town hall trust is yet to make an announcement regarding his replacement but Giles says he is confident the building will be in “safe hands” when he steps down at the end of the month, remaining as associate director and a trustee.
“This has always been a very personal project, to realise the building’s full potential – artistic, creative and financial – but it has been a team effort,” he says. “I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a talented, hugely dedicated group of coworkers and collaborators, as well as supporters, artists, clients, stakeholders and our community who have not just enthusiastically embraced the Town Hall during my years here, but have been fundamental to getting us to where we are.”
Giles’ final season, announced last week, features brand new work from the likes of Bristol-based theatre company Idiot Child and a showcase from international dance festival Dance Umbrella, as well returning productions from regular collaborators such as Kneehigh Theatre Company.
He said: “This has been my ambition from the start: bringing the building to life with work made for, inspired by, or at home in our unique spaces.”