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Guest blog: 150 years of Hoxton Hall

Hoxton Hall group director Hayley White discusses the birthday celebrations of the east London venue and its plans for the future

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150th birthday… not my birthday but the birthday of Hoxton Hall, the Music Hall Theatre who this year will be older than the Queen and Madonna put together and will have had just as many reinventions, touch ups, structural and cosmetic additions as Madonna, allegedly.

We will be celebrating with a revival of variety and return of the Queen of Burlesque, Immodesty Blaize, on 8 November 2013.

When I say I am a director of a theatre, many people ask what plays I direct. Erm… well I don't. I do many, many things but not direct plays, and for the last 8 years plays have been the last thing on my to-do-list, much to my dismay. High priority has been raising the funds to get the old girl (Hoxton Hall) back on her feet, juggling the many challenges of giving a grade II* listed theatre a facelift.

So, I have been dusting off Hoxton Hall's archive of playbills to programme the 150th celebrations and they are full of many controversial characters such as black and white minstrel groups and Anny Adams of UK and US Music Hall fame from the 1860 onwards. I love raw, heartfelt magical moments of performance where the craft on stage fits its environment and moves the audience and the performer. When I am moved I want to reach out to the performer and let them know whatever it is I might be feeling. That is why I love variety and Music Hall.

Immodesty Blaize

You can. There are no rules. It can be raucous and it can definitely put the fear of god into the performer. Because of this it is completely accessible, no airs and graces, honest and exposing for performer and audiences. It is this experience we are looking to recreate on 8 November this year with Immodesty Blaize who will return to the Hoxton Hall stage after her stunning debut 10 years ago, which rocketed her to fame.

Right now we are preparing for the 150th birthday before we close to spend over £2m on the biggest facelift the venue has ever seen. Raising the funds and making a plan true to the venue's heritage has been an epic task; bringing Hoxton Hall back to life as one of only a few remaining purpose built homes for variety. It is an unforgiving venue, production values are by necessity of the space, not to mention funding, and are limited to nearly none.

But the venue is far from sterile; it has personality, a long performance history and the ‘spit and sawdust' unassuming nature of the space really draws you in. It certainly did to me, Anny Adams and Immodesty Blaize.

The refurbishment includes new and unique restoration features of guilt sun burners and roof lay lights, fire places and seating to help the old girl shine from her humble beginnings. Our programme will be reflective of our 150th offering; honest, East End revival of variety as an enjoyable, accessible, cathartic, risky, sometimes political and ever-so-slightly cheeky performance style entirely fitting of Hoxton Hall's roots.

That's the next 8 years sorted then. See you in November and for our grand reopening in late 2014!

Hoxton Hall is presenting Hoxton Varieties, a series of events running until 28 November as part of their 150th birthday fundraising season


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