World’s oldest music hall, Wilton’s, in Whitechapel secures Heritage Lottery funding
It is third time lucky for the world’s last surviving music hall in Whitechapel as it finally secured Lottery funding today.
Tucked away, in Graces Alley, Wilton’s Music Hall had to limber on in its fight for survival as it walls and floors continued to crumble after it was twice turned down for a Lottery grant towards its restoration.
But today it was announced that the II listed building —once packed with audiences coming to experience its can-can girls after it opened in 1858 —has been awarded �56,000 of initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
But crucially it has also been promised a full �1.6 million grant if it can raise �600,000 in match funding within two years —�200,000 of which has already been raised.
The venue’s artistic director Frances Mayhew said: “It’s brilliant news, we’re very excited. It’s not over yet. But it’s a really good start so that we can develop our restoration programme further.”
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After their previous lottery bids were turned down donations flooded in from sympathetic fans and �64,000 was raised towards the hall’s restoration since last August.
Ms Mayhew said: “We spent that money on emergency works. It was a matter of life and death to secure the structure of the building.”
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A further �700,000 was donated by a non-profit organisation, The Love Day Trust, and a family trust, the Sita Trust, which is currently being spent on restoring the auditorium.
But Ms Mayhew is keen to stress that they are still open for business and continue to put on “mini plays” in the upstairs rooms.
She said: “We’ve built viewing platforms inside the building so people can look into the hall to see the restoration work.”
The music hall was built on the site of a former pub and at the back of five existing terraced houses, and the initial Lottery funding will be spent on restoring the houses.
Ms Mayhew’s vision is to use the houses for events, education, photo shoots and as galleries.
She said: “It really feels like we’re realizing our dream now. This place will be amazing and no longer derelict.”