Moth Club is Hackney’s newest and most unlikely party venue
An unlikely collaboration has breathed new life into the ex-serviceman’s club.
It would be easy to miss Moth Club. Entry is gained via a nondescript door just off Mare Street, tucked away behind Hackney Picturehouse.
Step inside and you’ll find a lounge bar decked out with an extensive collection of military memorabilia, a dancehall complete with a resplendent ceiling comprised of glittery golden arches, and an intimate drinking den upstairs.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about Hackney’s latest nighttime hotspot is the fact it’s been catering to drinkers for more than four decades.
The Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH) was established in South Africa in 1927 as a brotherhood to help support fellow comrades in need. The Hackney headquarters opened in 1972. Christine Walton has been coming to the venue with her husband Brian for over 20 years. “When it first started there were just two barrels with a plank across,” she says. “Everyone donated the drinks to the bar.”
Over the years, the club evolved from these humble beginnings, acquiring a proper bar and an impressive collection of military exhibits in the process – including a decommissioned Bren machine gun which was hung from the ceiling.
More recently, however, the club’s future has looked in doubt. When the boiler broke two years ago, members went on a fundraising drive and chipped in to fix it, but it was clear that another catastrophe would spell the end for the club. Looking for a lifeline, the club’s members began discussions with anyone who might be able to save the building. Most were developers who had plenty of cash but would only invest if the members were prepared to move on. What the MOTH really needed was someone who was prepared to invest in the venue and keep the club open.
That’s where Lanzarote came in. The events group behind Hackney venues The Shacklewell Arms, The Waiting Room and The Adam & Eve recently agreed with the members to revamp the building, bringing in a new audience while providing a home for the club and paying tribute to its history. The club’s memorabilia is still on show but the whole venue has been extensively refurbished. Christine’s husband Brian says: “It cost quite a few shillings… It’s incredible. There’s no way we could ever, ever have afforded to do this.”
The concept for the venue is to programme events that chime with the club’s heritage. Bingo nights will continue every Wednesday and it will still host MOTH and British Legion meetings. Like other Lanzarote venues, there will be gigs and club nights. But there are also plans for cabaret, comedy, live game shows and karaoke. Max Moran, venue booker and promoter at Lanzarote, says: “Obviously this has been a social club for a long time. We wanted the programming to be influenced by that. We’re trying to make this a unique experience and the sort of place that our generation aren’t used to getting involved in.”
The revamped venue opened briefly for Visions festival at the start of August, ahead of its official opening in September. The club’s founder Leslie R. House may not have approved: “If you’d come in here with long hair he’d have said, ‘go and have a haircut’,” says Christine. But the current members are more than happy to welcome new visitors. Kevin Swords has been attending the club for 18 years. “One thing I do like is to see younger people in here,” he says, before Christine adds: “I think we’re going to see the club go from strength to strength. We can still meet here but we see wonderful things happening.”