Chief Executive of the Hackney Empire theatre and Fellow of the RSA, Clarie Middleton has worked with theatres, companies and festivals in Romania, Russia, Germany, Trinidad, South Africa and Japan as well as in London and the UK – the result of such a diverse professional background is that cultural inclusion has become fundamental to her professional practice.
Describe your ideal day off in Hackney.
My ideal day off would have to be in the summer. I would spend the morning exploring the bits of Hackney I’ve never had time to visit, like Sutton House. I would sit outside Lardo restaurant on Richmond Road and have their little olives and salad snacks with a chilled bottle of rosé. Then I would just go and have a nap in London Fields.
What is your favourite bar or restaurant?
Well, call me biased, but I have to say that the Empire Bar, for snack lunches, a cup of coffee and a pastry, is ideal for me. I have taken a real shine to their little pork and leek pies too. Otherwise, Anatolia, the Turkish place – the mixed mezze is great, but I love the lamb chops too.
What is your favourite shop?
There is a lovely little vegetable shop and bakery, just over the other side of Mare Street just before you get to the railway bridge. I like having access to that kind of artisan place. I buy my bread there; mostly sourdough.
What was your most memorable night out in Hackney?
The first night of Charlie Parker’s Yard Bird at the theatre was pretty special. It was a jazz-infused opera, which we collaborated with the Opera Philadelphia on as part of a new programming venture to make opera more accessible. It was just a really great event – and first nights are always particularly special. It’s all the excitement about the first time a piece has gone in front of the public, the critics and industry guests.
What is your favourite open space in Hackney?
London Fields. I don’t get there as much as I would like to, but I do try to get down there for lunch.
Where would you take visitors to show them the best of Hackney?
Because I am a trained historian, I would probably go on one of those Hackney Society walks that show the parts of Hackney that you don’t think about. Just behind the theatre there is a whole history of Sylvester Path that is part of the sheep-droving path that came from North of London through to Smithfield Market. Sutton House too. There are lots of little gems of that nature in Hackney.