Free Hackney!

WITH or without a recession, local councils provide a range of free services for residents, and Hackney is no exception.

These include free swimming for over-60s and under-18s, and free exhibitions and events at the Hackney Museum.

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, said: “The Council is on the side of residents through difficult economic times. I believe it is our job to enhance quality of life for residents and to make the borough a better place to live and work in, and as part of this the Council provides a range of free services and activities.”

Below is a selection of what is on offer:

Hackney’s eight libraries offer free access to PCs and the internet; over a quarter of a million books, 57,000 DVDs and CDs; help with lifelong learning and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL); a homework club; study areas; and a free community library service for those that can t access a branch. Look out in 2010 for the opening of the new Dalston Library, and re-opening of the refurbished and expanded Clapton Library. Visit:

Find out about the borough’s past and present at the Hackney Museum, which is open Tuesday-Saturday – it also hosts a number of cultural exhibitions throughout the year. Admission to the Geffrye Museum, in Kingsland Road, and its eleven rooms furnished from different periods of history, as well as special exhibitions and herb garden, is also free.

Hackney has the most green space of any inner London borough, and nine parks have received Green Flag awards, a national standard. Visit:

The Council funds voluntary sector groups to provide free play activities on Hackney’s housing estates and parks, including Albion Kids Show, which tours the borough and offers a mobile, free-of-charge play environment for young people, as well as Shakespeare Walk Adventure Playground.

Free swimming
Hackney’s over-60s and under-18s can swim for free at Council facilities including Kings Hall Leisure Centre, Britannia Leisure Centre, and Clissold Leisure Centre. Visit:

Children & young people
There are more than 25 youth clubs in Hackney, and throughout the year the Council offers a range of free activities for young people including arts, sports and outdoors; schemes for those interested in youth enterprise, leadership and social action; school holiday activities; and specialist provision for young offenders and those at risk of offending. The annual Discover Young Hackney arts and culture festival runs until 28 February.

Older people
Last year saw the 15th annual Festival for Older People, a programme of summer activities which included free events such as soca aerobics, talent contests, cinema matinees, street parties, and Wii sports. The annual New Age Games offer free sports for older people including swimming, kayaking, cycling, archery and gym activities, held in Council leisure centres, as well as day centres for adults.
For more details call the Community Resources team on: 020 7275 7092

Gillett Square
The public square in Dalston was opened in 2006, and regularly hosts free exhibitions, such as the recent Mezzo Moderno, Mezzo Distrutto video installations, as well as free activities, such as the square becoming a giant play area last October.
For info visit:

A carer is someone who provides help and support to a partner, child, parent, other relative, friend or neighbour, who could not manage without their help. The Council offers free respite breaks as well as free IT, financial, employment and legal training.
Call the Carers Helpline on: 020 8356 5054; or e-mail:

Cycle Training
Hackney has the highest level of cycling amongst its residents in London, and since 2005 the Council has offered free cycle training for people of all ages and abilities living, working or studying in Hackney. It also offers five-minute bike check-ups, as part of an annual cycling with confidence campaign.

Can’t see how to access something? Visit: and click on the ‘Community Directory’ link