Category Archives: Super 8

From Pop Art to Community Arts

‘Warhol to Walker’ Exhibition Launch – Thursday July 13th 6-7.30pm

This special exhibition explores the influence print movements have had on Hackney. Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition displays works on loan from the British Museum by celebrated artists including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Kara Walker alongside Hackney artists.

To support the show, Fragile Archivists contributed silk-screen posters from the Chats Palace Archive as well as made a film ‘From Pop Art to Community Arts: Hackney in the 1970s-80s’.

Pop Art Exhibition launch


The film is displayed at the Hackney Museum from 11 July till 16 September 2017.
Once the exhibition is over, the film will be available online. Watch this space!

We can’t thank enough our interviewees, the most wonderful Hackney activists, artists and researchers – Jess Baines, Neil Martinson, Alan May, Ingrid Pollard, Red Saunders, Rene Rice and Rebecca Wilson.

From Pop Art to Community Arts

© Asya Gefter


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.

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!

Elusive 1973 poster

We started the blog with a request to search for the missing 1973 Hackney Marsh Fun Festival poster. Now, one year older and wiser, we realise the festival started in 1974 and there was never a 1973 poster.

We are returning to celebrate the festival with a couple of clips and wish you a good summer. Looking forward to seeing you in the autumn for the film screenings.

During the many years that the Festival took place, hundreds of performers, bands and circus acts appeared throughout the weekend. Some of the acts that come to mind are the Great Indian dancers, a huge and exciting dance group of Sikh ‘Warriors’ who made you hold your breath as their swords flashed dangerously close to each other, The Greatest Show on Legs, a hilarious and daring group of men who performed ‘The Balloon Dance’ in the nude, always threatening to show what was behind the balloons, until they finally did, and Prof. Tommy Shand, who had a trail of kids following him as he tramped around the field playing his saxophone that produced bubbles from its horn.

A lot of local reggae and ska bands arrived, some quite famous like ‘Black Slate’, and local heroes 7th Heaven, and of course the wonderful ‘Jah Globe’. A church service always started the Sunday festivities and the fun started again. It was not unusual to see and hear a Punk Band competing with the Hackney Philharmonic Orchestra, or a gospel choir next to a raunchy jazz singer. In the food area, Indian Curries, vegetarian food and West Indian delights vied with Jellied Eels and Cockles, and Nye Bevan Tenants never ever let us down by providing a good old cup of tea and a game of Bingo.

See here for the recollections of the HMFF from Brian Walker.

‘Hackney Captured’ screening at Rio

SAT 11 May 2.15 pm • Special Matinee at Rio Cinema •


Super 8/standard 8 footage of VE Day parades, the Coronation, council fumigation of housing estates, the building of new homes, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Street parties, Sports Day, a Fairground, children’s film-making…

Rio’s compilation of films from the Hackney Archives and Freeform Arts Trust. Fascinating footage of many Hackney landmarks and significant events of the last century recaptures Hackney’s rich and vibrant history.

We want decent housing web

Some enchanted evenings

Brian Walker recalls the days of Music Hall at Chats Palace:

In the early days of Chats Palace, Mike Grey, a local historian and stalwart of the community, was instrumental in getting a Blue Plaque placed on a house in Graham Road where Music Hall superstar Marie Lloyd once lived. To celebrate this historic occasion Chats staged an ‘Old Time Music Hall’, and so it began. So popular was it that it was decided to make it a regular event.

Unveiling of the Blue Plaque to Marie Lloyd, 1977 © Mike Gray / Chats Palace

Soon regular customers and people from all over London turned up every month, and a group of local families became involved in supporting the shows and in time formed The Homerton Volunteers. This support continued for nearly 16 years. Eventually the Volunteers were responsible for running the Music Hall.

At first all performers were professional, but local and would be entertainers were encouraged to take part. However the success of the shows meant that many professional artistes asked to appear and eventually Chats had a reputation for fun and audience participation. It became so popular that at one time that Saturday night shows were repeated on Sundays as well.

Many famous people came to perform, faces seen on TV brought a bit of glamour to Homerton, amongst these were the legendary Clive Dunn of Dad’s Army fame, and believe it or not, the whole Muppet Company. Many old Variety turns found a place to perform their nostalgic acts bringing a lot of traditional skills that younger people had never seen before, but our local performers still had a chance to get up and do their bit.

The Homerton Volunteers with Animal the Muppet, 29 March 1980

The Music Hall was taken to many local festivals and venues, working at The Hackney Show every year, The GLC shows and even on the back of a lorry in The Easter Parade at Battersea Park. When The Hackney Empire was reopened, Chats Palace Music Hall put on one of the first Traditional Variety shows to be staged there.

What wonderful happy days!  Marie Lloyd would have loved it!

See here for a selection of posters publicising Music Hall nights.