Hackney’s diverse communities celebrated with Council grant-funded business projects coming to life this summer


Celebrating and connecting Hackney’s diverse communities is at the heart of projects coming to life this summer thanks to funding awarded to businesses to aid recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Eastern Asian Community Hub at Rouge - a homeware store focusing on vintage northern Chinese furniture and handmade ceramics - is running a rolling programme of workshops across the summer to promote various styles of wellness practice, cookery, and creativity.

The project was funded through the High Streets and Town Centres Fund, one of three major schemes under the business grants programme, to ensure a fair recovery from the coronavirus pandemic for the borough’s businesses.

For Rouge - a small Stoke Newington business that's been on the high street for 17 years - the funding marked an unique opportunity to welcome customers back while sharing their passion for Asian culture and history.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care, who attended the launch of the Eastern Asian Community Hub workshops in Stoke Newington earlier this month as part of her role as Deputy Mayor of Hackney Council, said: “It was my absolute pleasure to join the fantastic team at Stoke Newington’s Rouge, a unique and community-minded business which is a true reflection of the multicultural nature of Hackney. I enjoyed trying my hand at dumpling making and taking part in a sewing workshop and can highly recommend the Eastern Asian Community Hub summer programme to residents across the borough. 

“The Hackney High Streets and Town Centres Fund was designed to respond to the impact of the pandemic on local businesses and support ideas and initiatives to reopen and rebuild Hackney’s local economy. It is really rewarding to see some of these projects, such as the programme of workshops at Rouge, coming to life in a way that supports both the business and the community to come together.”

Owner Lei Yang said: “While 2020 was traumatic for everyone, it did provide an opportunity to overhaul the interior of the shop and begin planning the renovation of our downstairs rooms. The lockdowns were financially challenging, but they created a space for us to diversify our offering, focusing more on our online sales and then developing a teaching and events programme. This two-year period gave us space to transform and the business support grant from Hackney Council came at just the right time to help us grow our programme of events.”

More information on upcoming events at Rouge is available on the team’s website

Lei added: “Overall, our project is about community, renewal, and connection. People are still adjusting after the pandemic, and we aim to offer a genuinely restorative and creative space where people can slow down and connect. Our intention is to reach a broad and diverse range of people from across Hackney. The workshops are run commercially but we are also working with local community groups and charities to broaden this reach. Another key aspect for EACH is collaborating with and supporting other local businesses. In preparation for workshops, we look to source as much local food produce and materials from independent retailers in Hackney.”

£1.6 million has been distributed directly to businesses across the borough to deliver projects that build resilience, support environmental improvements and encourage customers back to the high streets. 112 businesses have been funded by the Council to deliver exciting and innovative projects this year to support their journey post covid-19 and for many of them the community is the heart of their recovery.

Grant funding will support the launch of the Hackney Reggae Festival, celebrating the music and culture of Caribbean communities which have a deep and long heritage in Hackney. The festival will take place over the weekend of 6 August, which is the 60th anniversary of Jamaican Independence Day. Music, food, arts and crafts and workshops will form the core activities of the weekend and will showcase local creatives, businesses and community groups.

See you in Stokey was also funded to deliver the Invisible People Art Trail, which showcased the artwork of over 50 local residents who feel marginalised, are disabled, or have a learning disability. From July 2 - 10, 90 businesses across Stoke Newington displayed the pieces in their shopfronts, with a number of beautiful works from the collection curated by the Guardian's political cartoonist Henny Beaumont available to purchase.

You can read more about successful projects funded this year here.