Category Archives: Hackney Marsh Fun Festival

The Pepper and The Palace

Fragile Archivists would like to wish everyone all the best for 2016 – the 40th anniversary of the start of Chats Palace.

Look out for our anniversary exhibition later this year. In the meantime here is this month’s Red Pepper magazine’s feature on 40 years of Chats Palace (click on the link to read the full article)!

24 in pictures chats _124 in pictures chats_2

Available half-price from Chats Palace!

Advertisements

The story so far …

Visit our new page of Exhibitions and Talks and don’t forget that ‘Mike Gray – In Black and White’ photography exhibition is at Chats Palace bar throughout the Summer 2015 as well as the ‘Photographer Unknown’ next door in Chats gallery. Have a lovely Summer!

Mike Gray - In Black and White

Mike Gray

Michael Leslie Gray – Hackney historian and community activist: born London March 3rd 1938, died Toledo 10th January 2015

Mike Gray, who has died in Spain at the age of 76, said that his life was defined by three locations Dulwich, Hackney and Mora de Toledo, Spain. He was a lifelong community activist and animateur, who was the first Chair of Chats Palace and who will be most remembered for his leading role in saving Sutton House Hackney. Read more 

David Fox and Martin Goodrich on Mike Gray at Chats Palace:


Bob Lee adds:
Mike Gray, who was instrumental in discovering and securing Chats Palace for the people of Hackney and beyond, passed away in a Toledo hospital on Saturday January 10th 2015. Back in the mid 1970’s, Mike, along with Freeform (a voluntary sector organisation then based in Dalston) and other local organisations took up the battle to transform the old library in Chatsworth Road into a community project that lives on to this day.

Mike Gray also discovered the Elizabethan Sutton House and fought a successful campaign to have it restored and turned into another Hackney miracle. His portrait was/is on the staircase in Sutton House.

Mike Gray

Mike Gray

Brian Walker adds:
I am so sad to hear that our good mate Mike Gray has died. Although he has been very ill for the last couple of years it is still a shock. Mike was a good friend and a very fair and dutiful Chairman of Chats Palace. We never realised at the time what a great campaigner and forward thinking organiser he was. He made such an impact on Homerton and Hackney, but to many of us he was just our friend and companion, Mike. Thank you! RIP Mike.

The King, the Mayor and the Community Artist

Martin Goodrich, co-founder of the Free Form Community Arts Trust, speaks here of his understanding of socialism and art; and of his grandfather – Henry Edwin Goodrich – the first Labour councillor and the first Labour MP of Hackney. It so happened that we discovered in the Hackney Archives this digitised silent 16mm footage showing the opening of Nisbet House, in which Henry Goodrich, then Mayor of Hackney, accompanies King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in their tour of the estate (1939). Nisbet House still stands on Homerton High Street across Brooksby’s Walk, a stone’s throw away from Chats Palace.

Part 1: Martin Goodrich speaks of his grandfather, socialism and art

Disclaimer. All reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain the copyright situation with this film but please contact Hackney Archives with any queries or further information.

Part 2: Martin Goodrich on memory and community

Radical Hackney: what legacy?

Radical community arts centres in 1970s and 1980s Hackney: what legacy? – a recent discussion at Open School East introduced by Ken Worpole

“We are now looking back over this vast period of 40 years from 2013 to 1973 and it seems to me like only 5 years ago. This idea that everybody could make art was so strong, and Hackney was such a vibrant area with such a strong radical political tradition, that it was no surprise that it became one of the national geographical areas where community arts really flourished. One of the questions that I hope will be addressed this evening is whether there are real continuities between now and the 1970s as we once hoped there were between the 1970s and the 1930s.”

***

This debate aimed to explore late 20th century experiments with arts and communities in East London, and the position of contemporary communal spaces within this lineage. The event brought together writers, researchers and organisers who were involved in setting up radical community arts centres in the 1970s and 1980s, or have been revisiting the histories of such places as Centerprise (Dalston, 1971-2012), Chats Palace (Homerton, since 1976) and Cultural Partnerships (De Beauvoir Town, 1983-1999) .

Fragile Archivists joined oral historian Rosa Vilbr and Cultural Partnerships co-founder Graham Downes to talk about the origins of the above-mentioned spaces, key moments and challenges in their history, as well as presenting oral and visual research gathered in recent months. The speakers were joined by Amit S. Rai who is involved with the recently initiated Common House in Bethnal Green, and Brian Walker, an early organiser of Chats Palace.

***

Here is an extract from what Fragile Archivists presented on the night:

The early Chats Palace programme evolved around two large scale community productions. The first one was the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival which took place in the summer on Daubeney Fields. The two day event, which started in 1974 was a prototype community festival and in many ways became a key reason why Chats Palace itself came into existence, through the need for a permanent base for the year-round festival programme. From extensive festival footage we showed a little montage from 1977.

In the early years of the organisation’s development Chats Palace worked closely with Freeform Arts Trust, who provided a programme of outreach workshops. We played another clip from 1977 and relates to the Queen’s silver jubilee of that year. It’s interesting to see how the newly formed Chats Palace were not afraid to work with the popular culture of the day and used the opportunity to make direct connections with the people on the estates. They set up jubilee support units who went around the local estates and offered practical support in things like site decoration.

Chats Palace and Freeform’s positive view of community art engagement wasn’t always embraced by everybody as this little clip of found footage demonstrates.

Remember remember

“I [Alan Rossiter] came to Hackney to work on Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground which is down at Daubeney Fields, next to Kingsmead Estate, in 1972. It wasn’t too long before we came up with the idea of doing a firework show on Daubeney Fields, which took off great, where you had a cabaret event and the fireworks as a backdrop.

Culturally we were part and parcel of the alternative arts scene of the time, begun with people like Joan Littlewood. People were thinking right, what is my art about? it should be about engaging with people. How do we do that?

So one of the key things was celebration. Another was engagement. When we went on to do the Fun Festivals we would set up meetings in each of the areas like Clapton Park Estate. The number of people involved at that level was quite extrordinary, that’s where we first got in touch with people like Brian Walker, an incredible character…”

On spectacles and new communities

from Brian Walker’s recollection of the HMFF:

One Arena Spectacle was more spectacular than planned, “Johnny Concho’s Wild West Show” was in full swing, the ‘townsfolk’ defending the jail from a band of mounted raiders, the crowd roared as Johnny Concho’s followers set off a fusillade of pistol fire and roared even louder when the guns set fire to the hay bales and eventually the whole town, reducing it to ashes. There were more cheers as the Fire Brigade made its entrance. The festival made all the papers next day.

All this fun and enjoyment had an effect that is still felt today, because of the vast numbers of people moved by the wholesale demolition of the area, new communities were formed when they were rehoused. All new communities are uncomfortable with each other, some people finding themselves living near people from different countries and of a different race, the festival simply introduced all these groups to each other, with friendships being formed that are still going today. It was difficult to be stand-offish to someone dressed as a baby, swigging pints of beer in the Pram Race, especially if you were dressed as the Mum, swigging even more pints of beer!