Brian Walker on 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.

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 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!

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