Chats Palace is an inclusive, inter-generational arts centre working with and for the diverse communities of Hackney. Firmly rooted in a rich artistic heritage, Chats Palace has a key role in Hackney’s growing cultural quarter, working in dynamic new partnerships with London Borough of Hackney and the broadest range of arts and non-arts partners to catalyse creative potential across east London. By championing local creativity, dialogue and debate we aim to make a meaningful contribution to the health, well-being and cohesion of our community through the breadth of our activities and depth of engagement these engender.
Chats Palace alumni include members of the local community as well as award-winning artists. Recent highlights include a youth + music project developed with Plan B (Ben Drew) and Palace Arts Music with Big Creative Education, both bringing professional musicians together with local young people to engender positive, life-long change. Going forward, our programme for will build on this strong foundation with an artist-led programme that attracts new audiences, encourages participation and stimulates creative and professional development, with a focus on emerging artists.
At a time of shifting demographic and rapid social and economic change where the gap between the less well-off and wealthier becomes wider, a creative hub that operates as a robust social enterprise is more relevant than ever. Chats Palace is an essential resource for the people of East London, providing creative and education opportunities to tackle inequalities and offers a welcoming space for community encounter and dialogue.
Chats Palace was founded in 1976 to provide arts and education opportunities to the local community, when the Homerton Library moved to a new building a few yards down the road. The former library building was appropriated by members of the local community who wanted to ensure that the Grade II listed building, donated to Hackney in 1913 by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, remained in community hands and ‘For the Betterment of East Londoners’. Following its conversion to an arts centre, Chats Palace has remained an impressive architectural landmark and much loved community asset, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
In the 1970s when many arts centres were being established (including Roundhouse Camden, Warwick Arts Centre and the Barbican Centre), Chats Palace was unusual because it origins were rooted in the demands of a working-class audience. Joan Littlewood’s vision for a People’s Palace played a role in the naming of Chats, chosen because it resonated with Littlewood’s People’s Palace and as a tribute to the Palace cinema that had existed on Chatsworth Road. The annual Chats Palace Christmas shows were a key expression of these activist roots. Involving large numbers of local residents of all ages as devisors and performers these irreverent and immersive pantomimes were famous for their artistic vibrancy and community participation, drawing in London wide audiences and creating enduring memories.