St. John’s Hoxton, London, UK.
For our 7th OTA we moved back into London, and headed over to the North East creative hub of Hackney / Shoreditch / Old Street. St. John’s parish church on Pitfield Street is an impressive oasis in bustling London, with an amazingly spacious building, and lots of room on the grounds for setting up Marquis tents and camping overnight.
The church is situated at the junction of New North Rd and Pitfield St.
We’re a short walk from Old St or Hoxton stations, and close to the 271 and 394 bus routes.
A bit of History
Completed in 1826, St John’s is a Georgian church in the Classical style and is the only one built to the design of Francis Edwards, Sir John Soane‘s foremost pupil. The building is a large example of a Commissioners’ church, retaining its floor plan intact as well as its galleries and its décor is notable, particularly for its spectacular painted ceiling. It was executed by the prominent architect Joseph Arthur Reeve in the early 20th century. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, its name preserves the memory of a local priory dissolved by King Henry VIII.
About our choice of Venue
We wanted to take a moment to walk you through our new venue – it’s fair to say that the new venue is not exactly a traditional tech space. When it comes to tech, hacking, breaking things and being deliberately disruptive a church is not necessarily the first place you think of. For those of you that know me (Matthew Cashmore) you’ll also know that I left the world of tech and publishing last year to train as a Priest and with that knowledge, combined with a church as a venue it’s fair to say there may be some concerns… so let me explain why we ended up at St. John’s in Hoxton.
None of us care what your personal beliefs or values are – we only care about your hack and creating an environment where you can build something amazing – that’s the only thing that matters. We’re sure you’re going to fall in love with the space as much as we have and can’t wait to see your reactions to what we’re doing there.
We knew that in 2015 we wanted to return to London – but we wanted a venue that would hold some of the best things about Bletchley Park (mainly the camping) and the free nature of a campus type venue. They are rather few and far between in London and just as I was about to give up hope in outdoor space and start talking to universities etc I went to an event at St. John’s and realised we’d found our venue.
It’s incredibly central, it has a ‘campus’ that allows us to camp in a secure environment, it is reasonably priced and it’s already a start-up incubator. The venue hosts start-up companies in the crypt and the chap in charge is totally into the tech scene and wants the venue to support the local community.
The venue has a track record of running events and services that are totally secular in nature – it’s an easy space to convert into a ‘neutral’ space and we have complete control over the venue which means we can pretty much do what we want there – that’s a massively important factor for OTA as I hate to say no to people who want to do things. So a venue who gets shirty about soldering irons or flying drones or launching rockets isn’t going to work for us – a venue who is run by a person who says ‘cool’ when you suggest you may want to blow something up at the front of the main space is kinda awesome.
The space is being designed to be completely neutral. There will be NO church services running, you will not be expected to take part in, have conversations about, or even acknowledge the existence – or not – of anything other than your hack. There will be no vicar wandering around trying to convert anyone and we are explicitly saying the space is open to absolutely everyone.
The ethos of OTA has always been one of open inclusion, engaged debate, honesty and deliberately blowing things up for fun – it’s pretty cool that we’ve found a venue that shares those values.