28 March 2022

To celebrate the heritage and potential of the space at the Soho Poly, the University called upon its own leading artistic alumni to entertain and inform its valued guests from the arts industries and key Fitzrovian community members. Guests were able to witness first-hand the vision for the Soho Poly and how this Fitzrovian asset needs support to be able to deliver crucial artistic programmes, as well as provide a unique and historical community space for the local area.

Course Leader of Creative Writing BA, Matthew Morrison

Upon arrival, guests were welcomed to the venue by the project team and were allowed time to explore the space and learn about the history of the venue. Project leaders of the Soho Poly restoration project Guy Osborn, Professor in the Westminster Law School, and Dr Matthew Morrison, Course Leader of the Creative Writing BA courses at Westminster, spoke alongside Jordan Scammell, Head of Development and Fundraising at Westminster to welcome guests and encourage them to explore the venue, site, discussing whilst highlighting the importance of donations to the project. importance of the fundraising campaign to make the space accessible. 

The first set of the evening was performed by Jon Ronson, who studied Media Studies at the Polytechnic of Central London (the predecessor of the University of Westminster) and critically acclaimed gonzo journalist, broadcaster and author who has produced a range of content for the likes of BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4. In his anecdotal set, Ronson opened his performance by reading an excerpt of his book Frank, which was followed by an excerpt from an episode of his BBC Radio 4 series ‘Things Fell Apart’, a series about the origins of US culture wars.

Following his set, singer songwriter and Westminster Contemporary Music student Emmy the Great took the stage and performed an acoustic selection of some of her favourite songs for attendees to enjoy. Emmy the Great has released four studio albums, the first of which was ranked in the top ten of The New York Times’ Albums of the Year in 2009. She has gone on to collaborate with world-renown artists including Fatboy Slim, has written for The Guardian and Vice Media, and also produced multiple film and television soundtracks and original songs.

During her set, Emmy the Great said about the University and her experiences:

“I had such an awakening at Westminster. It is the only place I’ve ever been that has no social hierarchy. I got to Westminster and it was this utopia, people collaborating and being friends, and those friends I made are the ones I still trust in the music industry. I had the best time and I have only good things to say.”

Emmy the Great performing Soho Poly event space

Jordan Scammell closed the event by thanking guests for attending and highlighting the fundraising need, the current status of the space and what the attendees’ philanthropic support could achieve. This was followed by a networking session with drinks and food provided by the University’s catering service Aramark. 

Talking about the event, Dr Matthew Morrison said: “This night was what the Soho Poly is about. Our principle is to ‘disrupt your everyday with arts and culture’, and we hope in the future the SohoPoly is the place you can come to do this. We want there to be no barriers to participation; it is all about providing plays and gigs for those who cannot always gain access to the arts.”

Jordan Scammell added: “It was an absolute privilege to have Jon Ronson and Emmy the Great perform on Friday evening to launch our fundraising event series for our Soho Poly revival campaign. Hearing about their own creative experiences at Westminster, in the heart of Fitzrovia and Soho, and their personal connections to the space gave us all a real sense of pride. It was delightful to see our guests enjoy the magical atmosphere and join us on our journey. A huge thanks to Jon and Emmy for raising the profile for us, of this important project.”

To find out more about how you can support the restoration of the Soho Poly, please email [email protected] or to donate directly, visit the donation webpage.

Event attendees applauding