Community and political benefit nights

Benefit nights have always been a regular part of the evening entertainment programme at Chats Palace, reflecting both national and local concerns of the day. The group of posters shown here promote events for local projects (Victoria Park Adventure Playground, About Turn Enterprises), issues of concern to local communities (Trevor Monerville Campaign, Sickle Cell) and international campaigns of the day (Anti-Apartheid).

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A recently discovered brass plaque lying at the bottom of a dusty old archive box bears the following inscription:

“To Chats Palace: For your support during the Strike 1984-85. If all our members were as solid and firm as you and your friends, our fight would have been easier.”

No surprise that the Chats Palace audience would have thrown themselves in to fundraising for the Miners. The strike was one of the biggest and most protracted industrial disputes Britain has ever seen. Along with the abolition of the GLC in the following year, its outcome affected the direction of life in inner city places such as Homerton, way beyond the coalfield areas themselves.

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The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign was very popular with Chats sending 2 workers on special ‘Building Brigades’ to support what were widely considered to be progressive programmes of the Nicaraguan Government in the 1980’s.

In the early 90’s the various campaigns supporting progressive Latin American Movements remained popular. Cuban international touring band Sierra Maestra played for the Latin American Bureau in 1994. Although they almost didn’t, having walked in to the theatre and been offended by a large American flag that had remained in place above the stage from the previous nights ‘themed’ party. (It was removed).

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One of the earliest posters is of a Hackney Rock against Racism event featuring The Thompson Twins, probably from the late 70’s, before the band’s early 80’s fame.

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Little more than a decade later saw the return of Anti Nazi League benefit nights, this time in response to the rise in BNP activity in the East End, culminating in the election of Derek Beackon in Tower Hamlets.

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