Legal structure and financial history of Torriano Meeting House

99 Torriano Avenue was squatted at the suggestion of Shortlife Community Housing by John, Susan and Emily in 1982 to live and work in. The Meeting House evolved on the ground floor. The very dilapidated building was part of a derelict terrace compulsorily purchased by Camden Council.

Later the terrace was put up for auction for redevelopment. There was a successful campaign for the Council to retain ownership of No 99 and the Meeting House had a licence to use the premises. Then a year or so later the building was put into the Housing Action Area Renewal Programme and, in recognition of the value of Torriano Meeting House, renovated for community and arts use, with the separate upper maisonette let to a council tenant (now a right to buy leaseholder). John, Susan and Emily had moved elsewhere.

Torriano Meeting House Ltd was formed in 1985 to hold the lease. It is a Friendly Society, registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. The original shareholders have £1 shares.

Torriano Meeting House Association was formed to do the day-to-day running.

Camden Council gave TMH a grant to cover the rent to the Council and basic running costs. As a community centre we had exemption from paying rates

For a period in the ’80s John Rety had a small wage as part-time paid worker to run the Meeting House. He organised events, and the Meeting House collaborated with other community organisations as such as the library services, the Shaw Theatre, Inner London Education Authority, community festivals. He cultivated a good relationship with Greater London Arts, The Arts Council and Camden Council’s Arts Department.

In the early 1990s the beginning of the erosion of arts funding began to hit. Incrementally.

The funding for a worker was cut. But there was still grant funding from Camden Council for rent and running costs and from arts organisations for events and projects.

Then running costs were cut but there was still a grant for the rent which had increased to £10,000pa.

Then the grant from Camden Council for the rent was cut but there was full rates relief.

Then about 6-7 years ago the Arts Council was slashed and we lost funding from the Literature department.

Then we lost discretionary rate relief when community arts organisations became no longer eligible. We now pay nearly £1000 in rates which is a fraction of the full amount because we still get mandatory rate relief for community centres.

So, Torriano Meeting House is now entirely user funded. The up side is that we don’t have to jump through hoops for the council and fill in forms for them trying to convince them that communities are a good thing and that art is a good thing. Torriano Meeting House is a useful resource both as a space and as vehicle for individuals and groups to access project funding.

Our income comes from a number of sources:

  • Hire fees by the hour or day for classes, rehearsals; events etc;
  • Door takings for the Sunday poetry readings
  • Regular donations from supporters
  • Benefits. The annual Poetry Competition raises £1k. We have had folk music benefits, Burns Night meal, classes run as benefits.
  • One-off donations for particular items eg the new boiler last year.
  • Donations in kind eg teabags, wine, food, cleaning materials, toilet rolls etc.
  • Donations in time.
  • Donations from Hearing Eye publishers from sales of backlist titles
  • Users putting a fee to TMH in grant applications for projects. Eg WW1 project will give £1k this autumn.

Torriano assets

  • A piano
  • Two 16mm film projectors and screen
  • Works of art, some purchased by TMH, some donated.


  • Rent
  • Rates
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Accountant fees
  • Repairs and decoration
  • Publicity


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