Hackney top 8: alternative nights out

January is cruel. Crueler still if you’re surviving on celery sticks and green tea. Whether you’re trying to chase away the blues or still desperately avoiding the pub, Hackney’s full of alternative nights out and entertaining distractions. Here are our eight faves.

Chats Palace

Learn to play folk music or break into song with London’s first sea shanty choir: Chats also hosts barn dances and ceilidhs. It wins the prize for Hackney’s best dance floor – shiny parquet with a glitterball overhead – and has recently opened Bar Kiosk, in partnership with the folks at Cooper & Wolf, which will host free live music and photography exhibitions.

The Bridge

Brace yourself for the fantastical decor here, with acres of brocade, phoney Old Masters, ornate mirrors and lamps and throne-like gilded seats: the effect is gypsy caravan meets shabby stately home. Feast on Turkish pastries and baklava, great coffee and cakes – and booze – if you’re allowed!

Mosaic classes

Hackney City Farm hosts lovely drop-in mosaic classes for adults or kids. Apply your designs to ceramics, frames or furniture, or create your own sign or house number.

The Proud Archivist

Canalside multi-arts venue, with eclectic events ranging from wildlife-drawing classes to creative writing workshops, comedy nights and acoustic folk. They also serve British-focused food including brunch (till 5pm) and evening meals.

Hackney Attic

Tucked away on the top floor of the Picturehouse, the Attic has a nice line in quirky and alternative events, from a film quiz to cabaret and soul nights. It’s a homely venue for live music, too: folk, jazz, reggae, Latin and African.

Mazí Mas

A community interest company that supports refugee women, Mazí Mas has recruited chefs from Senegal, the Philippines, Iran, Brazil, Peru and Ethiopia. They serve excellent international home cooking, currently at The Russet.

Draughts Café

This Haggerston board games café, under the railway arches, has been a big hit with the grown-ups, and is crammed with families at weekends. Choose from literally hundreds of games on display at the far end, grab a drink and get playing – you can ask a friendly in-house ‘games guru’ for help if you’re stuck.

Hoxton Hall

Built in 1863 by a local philanthropist, this jewellery-box music hall is one of Hackney’s treasures. In its heyday the hall presented songs, sketches and turns featuring trapeze artists, jugglers, acrobats and performing dogs. It later became a mission hall and then a social club, and now specialises in youth arts and performance. The auditorium has had a major renovation, meaning this lovely little space is reclaiming its place in the artistic life of the borough.

Life drawing

Untutored artist-run life drawing, upstairs in the Star pub. They provide drawing boards and paper – and a model.