2014 - 2017

A Hackney Autobiography

This project recorded the history of a unique cultural institution called Centerprise (1971-2012), and created a website and mobile app, a book (The Lime Green Mystery: An Oral History of the Centerprise Co-operative), contributed to exhibitions, ran many free events and workshops and produced learning resources inspired by the place and its people.

What was Centerprise? Centerprise was a double fronted bookshop and coffee-bar on 136-138 Kingsland High street, Hackney, London. It was once described as a ‘lime green mystery’, because it’s inclusive approach to community work made it stand out from other shops. A typical customer might pop in for a coffee and come out equipped with timely welfare advice or inspired to write their memoirs. If you explored the three storey building you might come across people campaigning against the dehumanising treatment meted out in psychiatric hospitals, a woman-only performance café night, adult learners improving their literacy and publishing books in their own dialects and much, much more.

The A Hackney Autobiography archive is held at Bishopsgate Library. The project was the work of hundreds of volunteers, participants and community partners, some of whom are acknowledged on the project's website. Thank you to all who made this work possible.

Kindly supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to the contributions of National Lottery players.

Discover the mobile app

Discover the book

Visit the project website

"I still feel extraordinarily fortunate to have worked at Centerprise and I’m very proud of what I achieved...  But it absolutely took over our lives, well it certainly took over my life....  It was like joining a monastic order except that you could still have sex, but apart from that, it was like being in a community away from the world." - Janet Rees