The Mayfield Hall Group has launched a fundraising project to transform a decaying former social hall in Bethnal Green into a community-based cultural space in the heart of the civic quarter. The campaign is asking for £36.128 to kick off the project and take it to the next stage.
Mayfield Hall and its connection to Mayfield House
Mayfield Hall is part of Mayfield House, a 1960’s mixed-use local authority building in Bethnal Green originally dedicated to civil use. It stands at the junction of Old Ford Road and Cambridge Heath Road linking the significant local landmarks of York Hall and the V&A Museum of Childhood.
Mayfield House was originally composed of social welfare, public and residents’ programmes. It accommodated public facilities including a music library, recital hall and coin laundry on the ground floor as well as flats on the first floor that were allocated to the Bethnal Green Old Peoples’ Welfare Committee and social hall for use as temporary residence.
In 2012 the gable end was boarded up for 3 months and used to display advertising banners for the Olympics. Until 2015 it was occasionally used as a venue for hire but is now boarded up. The fundraising campaign launched by Mayfield Hall Group is hoping to re-imagine this iconic building and put it back into regular use.
The founding of Mayfield Hall Group
Local resident and architecture lecturer at Central St Martin Chris Thorn has lived in Bethnal Green for 17 years. Thorn and his two friends, architects Punya Sehmi and Mo Wong have been passing by the abandoned Mayfield Hall building for years and wanting to do something with it ever since it was boarded up.
Two years ago, the three architects put their heads together and started digging around, going through archives and old photographs to help shape their idea on how to redevelop the building. They created the Mayfield Hall Group C.I.C (it has been set up as a Community Interest Company) earlier this year and launched a fundraising campaign to help meet the costs of a feasibility study and public consultation.
‘We think the building could contribute more to the streetscape and add value to the local community,’ says Thorn. ‘We feel there is potential for the building itself to have a bit more outward look and engage the local people more,’ he adds.
The Hall is now occasionally used by the Patriot Square and Mayfield House Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) meetings and as an induction space for people who are doing community service in the surrounding area. Mayfield House is the residential block connected at the back of Mayfield Hall and Patriot Square is on the other side of the old Bethnal Green Town Hall.
The rest of the time it is unused and boarded up creating a health and safety issue according to the Council’s asset managers.
Thorn hopes to revitalise the building and turn it into a local arts community space where local businesses and community groups could host events, hold exhibitions and work together on community-based projects that would project on the high street.
The proposed plan will keep the original features of the building to preserve its unique character.
‘The building has value itself. It’s a nice piece of post-war architecture,’ says Thorn. ‘As long as there aren’t any health and safety issues, there is no need to redevelop the whole building,’ he explains.
Besides a Spacehive crowdfunding campaign, Thorn has also applied to the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, and if this is unsuccessful will be applying to Tower Hamlets Innovation Fund. Both of these funds rely on a successful crowdfunding campaign to provide match funding.
‘We’re committed to do something with the building so if we don’t receive these particular funds we will look for other ways of funding it,’ explains Thorn.
Mayfield House re-imagined as a community space
Mayfield Hall Group wants to get the local community to be directly involved in the project. The crowdfunding campaign will fund workshops and consultations inviting local people to have their say on how they would like the building to be developed.
They will also run test events and exhibitions at venues such as Rich Mix to gauge whether local people would like to see something similar in Mayfield Hall.
‘There are community spaces in Bethnal Green but many of them are hidden away in inaccessible locations, and some of them are too expensive to hire due to high rents.’ Thorn explains. ‘Mayfield House is highly visible on busy junction and will provide a community space that is both affordable and easy to access’ he says.
Thorn also has exciting ideas about how to create an interactive public space in front of the building. At the moment there is a car park and a signpost with wayfinding directions to local landmarks such as the V&A Museum of Childhood. Thorn would like to transform this space into an interactive way-finding feature that would link all the civic buildings around.
In terms of delivering the project, Tower Hamlets council is the leaseholder will have the final say who develops the building. This could either be the Mayfield Hall Group or an existing operator willing to run a programme of activities as decided via the public consultations.
As much as the redevelopment of Mayfield Hall will contribute to the regeneration of the area, Thorn hopes it will become another important part of the small square created by York Hall, St.John’s Church, The Civic Gardens and the former Bethnal Green Town Hall.
‘I think Bethnal Green is such an authentic area. I have a dog and I often walk my dog with people who lived here all their lives. There are many businesses and social enterprise groups that make the area so unique’ he says.
Thorn agrees that the architecture side of the project is what set him off to start the campaign, however he realises there can be a conflict of interest. Mayfield Hall CC therefore doesn’t insist on having a say on the architecture side of the project. ‘We are just the providers,’ says Thorn.
If the project achieves its target, the next stage will be hosting events, undertaking consultations and test events between January and April, putting together conditions survey, building a cost plan and launching another fundraising campaign to move the project forward.
If you liked this article, you might interested to hear about the V&A Museum of Childhood consultation and how to get involved.