Community bids farewell as Markaz leaves Golders Green Hippodrome

 Community gathers to say farewell to the Markaz at Golders Green Hippodrome

Community gathers to say farewell to the Markaz at Golders Green Hippodrome - Credit: Laura Marks

A faith community in Golders Green gathered to say farewell to their regular meeting spot in the hippodrome.

Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami (MTE - The Centre for Islamic Enlightenment), is leaving the Golders Green Hippodrome after trustees sold the building to Hillsong Church. 

The gathering on Sunday (November 28) spelled the end of an era following a lengthy battle with Barnet Council about the building's use.

A spokesperson for Markaz said: "It was lovely to have an opportunity to thank our neighbours who had welcomed us and stood by us through difficult times.

"Although we will no longer have our community centre here, our community lives here and the friendships we have made with our neighbours will continue to grow."

MTE paid £5.25m for the Grade II-listed building in 2017 and planned to use it for conferences, seminars, youth activities, English-language classes, after-school clubs and prayers.

In 2019 Barnet Council brought enforcement proceedings against MTE's use of the site, arguing that "use of the land as a cultural centre, not comprising use as a church, to hold concerts, conferences, drama and dance festivals" was in breach of the permission. The owners appealed this decision and ended up putting in a planning application for change of use from "church" to "place of worship".

An anonymous campaign described the venue as a "mega-mosque", a description denied by the owners and other faith groups.

The hippodrome was built in 1913 by Bertie Crewe as a 3,000 seat music hall, and has hosted performers including Danny La Rue and Marlene Dietrich. It owned by the BBC from 1960 to 2003.

It remained derelict until it was bought by Christian group El Shaddai International Centre in 2007.

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Anne Clarke, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said: “We have all worked  together to support the Markaz over the last few years and we feel that friendships between us and they’ve really brought us together.

"Today is bittersweet. It’s lovely to see everyone but we will sincerely miss the Markaz.

"We wish them all the best as they find a new home.”

Cllr Sara Conway, Labour's community lead at Barnet Council, added: "We will really miss this community we are very sorry to see them leave.

"We hope to keep in touch. They have been a wonderful addition to Barnet which works across all different faiths and communities."