“On the opening night itself the audience were welcomed and led into a magical forest glade environment. Having been shown to their tree trunk seats, they were entertained by the outlaw community. With the appearance of Robin and Marion the story began. After much plot and counter plot, farce and ducking down rabbit holes, our hero and heroine managed to defeat the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne.”
Chats Palace Annual Report on Robbin’ the Rich (Dec 14, 1980 – January 10,1981)
1982 – Burgerbar Galactica – ‘May the Sauce be with you’
1983 – Things that grow Bumps in the Night
1984 – Sawdust – Who stole the fun of the fair?
1985 – Junglenuts – On the tail of the loathsome shrine
1986 – Apocalympics! – Who cheats wins
The annual christmas pantomime was the major winter event at Chats Palace for many years. Starting with ‘A Hackney’d Show’ in 1976, there followed more than a decade of large scale community productions. The shows created their own traditions including the legendary last night, where the volunteers kept the cast on tenterhooks by adding to the action such things as live ferrets or worse!
‘A Wish for Billie Windows’ – Chats Palace Christmas Show 1988 Production team photo: back row – Rebecca Chester (designer), David Wooley (stage manager), Annie Smol (producer); middle row – Gary Horsman (light+sound+design), Tom Jones (publicity), Susan Chester (costumes); front row – Brian Walker (set builder), Malcolm Fredrick (director), John McGovern (link worker), Jack Bradley (writer)
One of the oldest pictures we’ve found so far is this Free Form Art Trust group shot, taken around Christmas 1977, during the production of the Christmas panto ‘The Wonderful Palace of Nod’. Look out for the full selection of Chats Christmas show posters in the near future.
The story of Free Form and its involvement with community arts in Hackney is admirably told in Kate Crehan’s book ‘Community arts: an anthropological perspective’. Kate, an academic at City University of New York is also a long-time friend of two of the organisations’ founders.