Learn how 1980s people power saved a Shoreditch hospital from closure in Hackney Museum’s latest exhibition

Campaigners with posters_watermarked_St Leonards_(C) Neil Martinson.jpg

A new small temporary exhibition at Hackney Museum looks at Hackney Health Emergency, a successful people-led campaign to save St Leonard’s Hospital in Shoreditch from closure in 1983-84. 

The exhibition, 1980s People Power - The Campaign for St Leonard’s Hospital, co-curated with members of Hackney Health Emergency, marks the 40th anniversary of efforts to save the buildings, which served as a general hospital until 1984. 

The campaign was organised by Hackney Health Emergency, and supported by local trade unions, the London Borough of Hackney, political parties, the Community Health Council and residents. Thousands of people signed petitions, contributed money, took part in marches and demonstrations, attended local benefit concerts and even held a torch lit vigil to show their support. 

St Leonard’s still provides many much valued community health services and there are currently plans in place to improve the condition of its buildings. 

The campaign to save St Leonard’s was one of a number of campaigns taking place during a period of significant change both locally and nationally. This exhibition provides an interesting insight into a fascinating moment in history. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the power of public voice and shows the impact of local people coming together to save what was a valuable service of the time.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, Cabinet Member for Health, Adult Social Care, Leisure and Culture

It was an amazing campaign. Local people were determined to stop the closure of St Leonard’s and campaigned vigorously for almost two years, eventually occupying the hospital. The District Health Authority gave in to Hackney Health Emergency’s demands and we are still benefiting from services at the great St Leonard’s. Now we need to redevelop it into a new hospital for the 21st century.

Malcolm Alexander, one of the leaders of Hackney Health Emergency

Residents and visitors are invited to attend a special free event and display commemorating the 40th anniversary of the campaign for St Leonard’s Hospital, entitled 1980s People Power, at Hackney Museum on Thursday 4 May, from 6-7.30pm. Reserve your place here

Find out more about the exhibition and event at Hackney Museum www.hackney-museum.hackney.gov.uk