LoveEast meets Deborah Coughlin of The Old Church in Stoke Newington

What’s your story, Deborah?
I spent the past decade moving from hitting a cowbell and a synth in an also-ran indie band to creating shows for the Almeida, ICA, Southbank and National Portrait Gallery – while simultaneously writing and broadcastng about the things I care about – particularly uncovering unheard women’s voices – for newspapers and radio.

What do you love about East London?
I live near Victoria Park now, but fell in love with East London in 2000 when I first moved to Clapton. In that time I’ve lived in and ran a gallery in a warehouse in Hackney Wick, slept above an arts pub, programmed in Whitechapel, and even managed the odd normal house in Tower Hamlets. Even when other places like Iceland or the US beckoned, I’ve felt so connected to East London I haven’t wanted to leave.

Old Church Stoke Newington interior, East London

Interior of arts centre

Tell us about The Old Church
The Old Church is a multi-arts centre in the heart of Stoke Newington. It’s got partnerships with an incredible array of local groups and artists from the area, and far beyond. It’s beautiful and bursting with history.

What inspired you to take on the job of artistic director?
What an amazing opportunity! My predecessor, Rachel, and the brilliant board at The Old Church (TOC) have got this beautiful venue into such a great shape, so it’s bursting with potential for brilliant things. It’s genuinely loved by the community, artists and visitors. As someone who wants to platform incredible work for a broad audience, and who wants to work with local people to address social issues we’re facing in East London, I would have been a fool to turn it down.

the Old Church, Stoke Newington, East London

The Old Church: photo by Peter Landers

What’s coming up?
I’m in my planning stage right now. What I want to do is reach out to groups who don’t already have a relationship with TOC. To work with our community to make sure we have a community and arts programme that addresses local concerns. And to platform challenging, high- quality work.

What is your greatest ambition for TOC?
That everyone in Stoke Newington feels welcome. That TOC is a destination for culture lovers.
And that we can help tackle the big challenges we all face in our community with creativity, openness and kindness.

What’s been your best day since taking the job?
I loved our THINK IN. We didn’t know how many people answered the call-out to come and help us work up ideas for the future of TOC but we had a full house! People who had been involved with TOC for decades and people who had never been through the door before, all exemplifying the wealth of experitise and experience that resides in Stoke Newington. It was fascinating and fun.

How can people help?
We want people to get involved. We want ideas. Emails telling us what you want to do here. And we need support – from volunteers donating time, to people and businesses who want to donate to our development.


What’s On:
There’s loads over the next few months including:
Friday, 1 December: Baba Yaga’s Hut Presents: Jozef Van Wissem
Wednesday, 6 December: Blow the Fuse presents Gaelynn Lea

@theoldchurchn16 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 9ES