Investment agreed for new East and South-East Asian Community Centre
- Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville (left), pictured with a HCCS trustee in 2018Pic credit: Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS)
- The former An Viet buildingPic credit: Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS)
- Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at An Viet in 2018Pic credit: Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS)
- Jabez Lam, Centre Manager and Lead for the development at Hackney Chinese Community Services (second from right), shows offices from the Greater London Authority around the buildingPic credit: Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS)
- Jabez Lam, Centre Manager and Lead for the development (far right) at Hackney Chinese Community Services, shows offices from the Greater London Authority around the buildingPic credit: Hackney Chinese Community Services (HCCS)
A much-loved building which for more than 30 years was used to support Vietnamese families in Hackney is to be refurbished for use as a new East and South-East Asian (ESEA) Community Centre, after Council investment was agreed to bring it back into use.
Vacant for the last few years, the building in De Beauvoir was at the heart of one of the UK’s largest and most-valued Vietnamese communities for generations, but had become underused and fallen into a state of disrepair. The Council approached Hackney Chinese Community Services in 2017 with a proposal to provide a community centre in the building, which would include use by the former occupier An Viet and develop and sustain its long-standing history and legacy, as well as support other local residents.
A joint investment of £1.4 million has been agreed to safeguard and refurbish the building to an acceptable standard, with the Council helping HCCS secure Greater London Authority ‘Good Growth’ funding of more than £450,000 towards the project, alongside £950,000 direct investment from the Council. Services provided will include helping those from Hong Kong achieve ‘British National Overseas’ Visa status - as well as offering training, education, advocacy and advice, migrant support, health and wellbeing help and arts, culture and social activities. HCCS has appointed Hackney Central-based practice 00 Architecture to develop proposals for the project.
From 1981 to 2017, the building was occupied by An Viet Foundation (AVF), which was set up in Hackney to support Vietnamese settlement in London after the Second Indochina War. It offered these families support with housing, health outreach, English language, and mother-tongue classes, as well as a well-known community led restaurant.
Hackney is a place where diversity is celebrated, so it is with pride that we announce this investment for a new community centre, which will provide a vital facility for an estimated 8,000 people living here who were born in East and South-East Asian countries. The An-Viet Foundation was integral to the Vietnamese community and other ethnic minority groups for decades and it is fantastic that HCCS will continue this legacy.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen an unacceptable rise in hate crime targeted towards people from the diverse Asian communities who call Hackney their home. Chinese people have been living in Britain for over 160 years and Hackney was one of the first settlements. Hackney’s Vietnamese community are such an important part of what makes the borough so special, and anyone who has visited Kingsland Road will have experienced the incredible cultural and culinary contribution this brings to the borough - which is not just celebrated in Hackney but attracts people from much further afield.
These communities have brought so much to the borough in terms of enriching our heritage, culture, business and civic life, and I hope this restoration will help repay their contribution to Hackney and help meet their aspirations for the future, starting an exciting new chapter for all the organisations involved. Without this intervention from the Council, treasured memories, including mine, risk being lost and the building would deteriorate further and likely remain empty for the foreseeable future, resulting in a great loss for the community.
We are thankful and encouraged by the Mayor of Hackney and the Cabinet for their investment into this historical building, enabling the establishment of the UK’s first East and South-East Asian resource centre. The building witnessed the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ transition from being a new refugee community to becoming a settled community making social, cultural, and economic contributions in Hackney and beyond.
Hackney Chinese Community Services is currently in the process of rebranding to prepare for the move to the renewed building. The resource centre will be a space for people of ESEA heritage to meet, work, relax, learn, and seek advice and support. This centre will be welcoming anyone who wishes to learn about ESEA life in the UK and meet ESEA people in the UK. We look forward with high spirits and promise for more opportunities for ESEA people to flourish in the UK at the renewed building.
The centre will include a commercial kitchen and a community cafe, as well as an outdoor space for summer events, meeting spaces, a large multi-functional hall for events and hot desking space for hire with high-speed broadband.