The Hackney Pirates is an enterprising charity that aims to develop the literacy, creativity and real-world skills of young people in Hackney, so that they achieve both in school and in the world beyond.

We know that young people sometimes need some extra help to achieve their full potential. We believe that providing support outside of school can really help young people to do better in the classroom, while also developing their broader skills. We also believe that learning should be a great adventure! So working together with local schools, families and volunteers, we deliver unique real-world learning projects in our own unconventional learning environment, the Ship of Adventures.

What we do & how we do it

We work with young people aged 9-12 whose teachers think they would benefit from some extra support. The Young Pirates come to our Ship of Adventures after school – it is a weird and wonderful out-of-school learning environment complete with secret passageways, an underwater cave and a ship’s cat. Young people receive some help on their reading through targeted reading support programmes. We also work on our unique creative publishing projects, where young people work with professionals to write their own books, CDs and websites. All our creative products give young people the chance to practice their writing skills but also see the whole project through to publication. You can see some of their work here. We sell the great products they make in our very own high street shop, the Shop of Adventures.

Our story

Catriona Maclay was a teacher in north London, and realised that some of her pupils needed more support than she and her colleagues could offer during the school day. Living locally, she knew that Hackney is filled with wonderful people who would be able to help. So in 2010 along with fellow conspirators and supported by local charity Bootstrap Company, we ran a pilot project to see if local children, parents, teachers and volunteers agreed that there was space for some pirate-style learning in Hackney. They did! The Hackney Pirates was born. We were joined by a top crew of fellow educationalists and shipmates to complete the team, and we have been working since then to grow our impact. In January 2014 we moved into The Ship of Adventures, our hub of education on the high street, where all the world can come and share in what we do.


Catriona explains what the Hackney Pirates do in her own words in this short video.

Catriona shares what she learnt from Jenny Halpern-Prince about the importance of having local chamions for your work.

Jenny was really enthusiastic in her support and generous with her ideas and contacts. It was really great to talk through our ideas and get some feedback and input.

Catriona Maclay, Founding Director of Hackney Pirates