It may not be common knowledge that one of the earliest community festivals in London (Hackney Marsh Fun Festival) was organised for many years from Chats Palace.
In April 1974 a group of local people met in the Golden Shoe pub in Hackney to discuss the possibilities of organising a community festival. Just three months later Hackney’s first neighbourhood carnival was a reality. Thousands of visitors attended the two day event and in spite of the inevitable poor weather, a genuine spirit of fun, friendship and co-operation prevailed.
Building on this initial success the 1975 festival theme, “Hackney Marsh on Sea” was an attempt to recreate the East Enders’ traditional seaside beano. Everything from Bathing Belle dance to the pierhead and promenade site layout was designed to enhance the holiday atmosphere. Up to 20,000 people were entertained with Music Hall, a rock concert, almost 30 floats and a Viking Pageant! As was to be expected, some events did not take place as planned, whilst contests such as the inter-pub tug of war occurred spontaneously.
In 1976 Mike Gray welcomed participants to the ‘East meets West Show’ with the message that the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival’s aim of reviving the traditional East End community spirit, encouraging people of all backgrounds to get to know and understand each other, was to be pursued throughout the year in a new programme of theatre, music hall and dance at the old library on Chatsworth Road…
There are several hours of footage of the Festival in the Chats Palace archive, shot over several years, in several different film formats. Here is just one three and a half minute Super8 reel, shown in its entirety. If anyone knows who shot this particular reel please do get in touch, we would love to talk to you.