Tag Archives: Hackney 1970s

Hollywood in Homerton

Studying the Chats Palace past programmes we were surprised to come across two dance acts with the same name. Surely some mistake, they must be the same person?

From the April 1981 Chats Palace programme:

An Evening with Will Gaines – Tap Dancer Extraordinary

Born in Detroit, Will Gaines is one of the few remaining tap dancers of the Vaudeville tradition. Himself a bill-topper at the London Palladium, Will has toured with a host of stars whose names read like a showbiz Who’s Who of the last forty years, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lenny Bruce, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Charlie Watts and Ian Dury. A night not to be missed. £2.00. (80p OAPs/kids)

Brian Walker remembers…

Will Gaines was a black American Tap Dancer whose gimmick was to tap dance in a pair of heavy working boots. He appeared at Chats Palace Music Hall quite a few times, and at our shows in Victoria Park etc.

My home is my shoes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs2HFu6_xIs

Will Gaines

©David Corio. Tap Dancer Will Gaines performing at the Wag Club, Wardour Street, London on 21 October 1984

David Corio adds…

The Will Gaines show I photographed was at the Wag Club around the time that the new jazz scene was becoming very hip and fashionable (early 80’s). Will Gaines and Slim Gaillard were the two US veterans who had been in London on and off since the 60s and although they were now getting on in years were still full of enthusiasm and energy for the scene and their music. Will Gaines came on with baseball cap pulled down low and a rectangular piece of plywood under his arm, placed it on the floor, sat on a stool, shut his eyes and started to tap. He was accompanied by sax, guitar and double bass. As the show progressed he became more animated standing up and filling out the musical gaps with great swirls of seemingly effortless tap dancing interspersed with stories about his days with Cab Calloway and the jazz scenes of Harlem and Chicago in the 1950s. Now in his 80s he still makes occasional appearances.

A short conversation with Will Gaines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPOZChw7EA0

Brian Walker again…

The mysterious Bubba Gaines was another American dancer and actor who came to Chats Palace many years ago, if my memory is correct he was on a tour of London venues, sponsored by the GLC. He was a very genial black man who charmed the about 100 people who attended. I have seen him in a few Hollywood films over the years.

Phil Sawyer remembers Bubba Gaines and Honi Coles performing at Chats Palace:

Alan Rossiter contributes…

Bubba Gaines and Honi Coles were a tap dancing duo and were sponsored by GLAA (Greater London Arts Association no longer in existence). It was one of the most magical nights at Chats as these were genuine Hollywood hoofers, the last remaining pair of the famous Copasetics. They demonstrated ‘buck and wing’ and asked if anybody in the audience had heard of this and there was a guy from Victoria Park who said he did and he had brought his tap shoes with him. Bubba Gaines invited him up on stage and they all danced together. It was brilliant and I am sure that man was totally thrilled and never forgot that amazing evening.

Cookie, Coles and Gaines 1974: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_FimMfUdVg

Black Tap at CP

Mike Gray concludes…

Leslie Bubba Gaines died in 1997 and had an obituary in the New York Times

He was part of a tap dancing group called Copasetics. That was the name which we used for publicity for his appearance in Chats. The two Gaines must be related in some way. Hope I am still dancing at 82!!

Glad we asked! Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say. Or as Lena Horne is quoted in the ‘The Class Act of Tap’ short film: “Honi made butterflies look clumsy”.


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.

Christmas 32 years ago…

“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) 

Click here to see the individual posters

1977 The Wonderful Palace of Nod group

1977 – The Wonderful Palace of Nod

1978 The Thief of Ragbag

1978 – The Thief of Ragbag

1979 The Ice Queen group

1979 – The Ice Queen – “Freeze up Mother Brown’

1980 Robbin' the Rich group

1980 – Robbin’ the Rich

1981 Bluebeard group

1981 – Bluebeard – The Barbary Ghost

1982 Burgerbar Galactica group

1982 – Burgerbar Galactica – ‘May the Sauce be with you’

1983 Things that grow bumps in the night group

1983 – Things that grow Bumps in the Night

1984 Sawdust group

1984 – Sawdust – Who stole the fun of the fair?

1985 Junglenuts group

1985 – Junglenuts – On the tail of the loathsome shrine

1986 Apocalympics group

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!

Billie Windows Production Team 1988

‘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)