Hackney Heart - a not for profit community hub

Hackney Heart

Following speculation that the council is subsidising a commercial enterprise on the Narrow Way, we've compiled a list of answers to common questions to clear up any confusion.

What is Hackney Heart?

Hackney Heart is a temporary café, shop, gallery and community hub which opened in September 2013. It is located at 411 Mare Street in the Narrow Way, a shop which had previously been empty for more than a year.

The idea behind Hackney Heart is to bring the shop back in to use, to encourage shoppers to visit the Narrow Way and to create employment opportunities. Animating empty shop units in this way and demonstrating how they may be used has proved to be an effective way of marketing commercial units and follows the success of the Council’s Art in Empty Spaces programme and initiatives like FARM:shop on Dalston Lane.

Hackney Heart has hosted exhibitions from local artists, workshops, children’s activities and was the venue for Hackney Harvest, a free feast for 200 people.

Is this a subsidy for commercial business?

No. Hackney Heart is volunteer led and is not for profit. Any takings left after running costs have been deducted are reinvested in Hackney Heart and activities to revitalise the Narrow Way. As such, Hackney Heart is not a commercial business and is not in competition with neighbouring traders.

Since opening Hackney Heart has made a small surplus which will be reinvested in free activities for the community.

How is Hackney Heart funded?

Hackney Council received £100,000 from the government’s High Street Innovation Fund to help support struggling high streets which were affected by riots in August 2011. Money from this fund has been spent on new shopfronts and activities in the Narrow Way to attract new shoppers including £16,000 to pay for rent of the empty shop unit now occupied by Hackney Heart.

No additional money from Hackney Council Tax payers has been invested in Hackney Heart.

Who runs Hackney Heart?

Through the Hackney Central Town Centre Partnership, local traders were asked if anyone would step forward to run Hackney Heart on a not for profit basis. It was made clear that the manager would have to work voluntarily and would not receive any personal financial reward for running the project.

Local businesswoman Jane MacIntyre was the only person who volunteered for this position. Her experience in running successful businesses in Hackney is an advantage for this role and her passion for the local community and high street made her the ideal candidate.

So far, volunteers have donated more than 1,520 hours of unpaid work to run Hackney Heart.

A part-time shop assistant has been employed by the project since November 2013 on minimum wage, taking them out of unemployment and providing valuable retail experience.

How long will Hackney Heart be there?

A contract was signed for six months for the empty retail unit and has recently been extended for a further six months. There is a clause allowing the agreement to be ended at two weeks’ notice if another business wishes to move in to 411 Mare Street.

Through Invest in Hackney, Hackney Council is working with landlords to actively market the unit as commercial premises and has shown round several interested businesses.

Where can I find out more?

Hackney Heart will be hosting a free open day on 14 February with workshops and free healthy food for people who would like to get involved with Hackney Heart and find out how they can benefit from activities and opportunities as part of the project. Staff will also be on hand to answer any questions about Hackney Heart. Everyone is welcome.