Tag Archives: Hackney 1980s

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”.


Community and political benefit nights

Benefit nights have always been a regular part of the evening entertainment programme at Chats Palace, reflecting both national and local concerns of the day. The group of posters shown here promote events for local projects (Victoria Park Adventure Playground, About Turn Enterprises), issues of concern to local communities (Trevor Monerville Campaign, Sickle Cell) and international campaigns of the day (Anti-Apartheid).

Click below ‘Continue reading’ for more posters and stories.

Political benefits-1

Political benefits-9

Political benefits-4

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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)

Slides from the attic – 1980s Hackney

A small selection of 35mm transparencies showing the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival and other outdoor community events and parades in the Homerton, Chatsworth Road and Clapton area, from the early early 1980’s.

The photos feature some banners and floats from longstanding community projects still operating today such as the Homerton Grove Adventure Playground and The Pedro Club.

Also fleeting glimpses of a couple of public houses now long gone, The Golden Shoe and The Clapton Park Tavern.

The original Chatsworth Road market can be seen in full operation. Look out for Carringtons bakery where the original ovens were literally underneath Chatsworth Road and the shop assistant sported the perfect jet black 1960’s beehive hairdo.

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What Went On – Chats Palace posters

The current autumn events programme at Chats Palace is in full swing – on Thursday evenings classes in jive, Appalachian flat-foot and European step dancing are on offer.

This Saturday’s fund-raising benefit dance features American multi-instrumentalists
The Drawbacks and The Homertones, an act that has regularly featured on entertainment bills at Chats for over twenty five years.

Details of all the above events at http://www.chatspalace.co.uk

In the 1980’s Becca Chester and the Chats Palace Print shop regularly produced ‘What’s on’ this week or this month posters, that were then distributed in the area in the old fashioned way.

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“A lot of like minded people”

Kate Kelly worked as a photography tutor at Chats Palace in the early 1980’s.

Kelly secured funding to run a weekly all day darkroom workshop for local women with full on site creche facilities, lunch and lots of cups of tea!

The group produced a series of image and text panels that explored living conditions and health issues that affected women and families in Hackney at the time. The work was influenced by women photographic activists such as the Hackney Flashers and Jo Spence.

Kate Kelly on – art practice and community projects in the 1980’s:

Some of the photo panels from that period have survived and Kate, who has recently reconnected with Chats Palace, called in earlier this week to do an hour long interview remembering those times.

© Chats Palace

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