THE INSIDE OF THE NEWEST VENUE IN HACKNEY IS A STUNNING CONTRAST OF A BEAUTIFUL OLD INTERIOR AND THE LATEST IN LIVE MUSIC TECHNOLOGY. EARTH IS THE FORMER SAVOY CINEMA, WHICH OPENED IN 1936 BUT SAT DERELICT FOR FOUR DECADES ABOVE A TURKISH SNOOKER HALL.
The forgotten space, once full of junk and pigeon nests, has been transformed. A state-of-the-art 3D soundsystem sits in a pleasing contrast to the faded paint on the original ornate plaster mouldings. Tiered rows of benches slope down to a huge, open stage.
The brains behind EartH is Auro Foxcroft, who previously set up Shoreditch venue Village Underground. As hammers and drills bang and whirr in the background, he explains that his plan is to maintain the character of the old cinema, rather than turn it into just another venue. The lack of seats gives a relaxed atmosphere where people can move around easily, giving a feel more akin to a festival than a formal gig venue. And they don't just host live music either. Since the venue has opened, Neil Gaiman, Brian Eno and Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys have given talks, and tickets for a Beastie Boys book event sold out in under a minute.
There's a strong philosophy behind the musical bookings too, which take in anything from Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke to Danish post-punk group Iceage. "We're trying to make it as international and diverse as possible, and have a representation of different scenes, genres and styles," Foxcroft says. But that's not just in terms of who is onstage - they're determined that EartH also represents the different groups in the local community. With that in mind, the gigs will subsidise an educational centre being set up in the basement that will allow young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get involved in music-making and production. "You can teach, but we also want to introduce them to world class artists so they can get the bug and really get inspired,” Foxcroft says; “checking things out on YouTube is great, but going there and feeling the energy is another dimension to it".