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Kingsley Hall Bow – 90th Anniversary Events

Kingsley Hall Community Centre 90th Anniversary

In September 2018 a series of events were held to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the opening of the Powis Road building. The program is shown below, together with pictures and video clips of some events

Tuesday 2nd October     3-4.30pm : The Inauguration of the World Peace Pathway in Kingsley Hall’s Peace Garden.

This report on the various activities is an extract from the report by Alice Mackay prepared for the Trustees of Kingsley Hall Bow and the Kingsley Halls Heritage Committee:

There is general agreement at Kingsley Hall Bow that the programme of events in September to commemorate 90 years of Kingsley Hall Bow and the lives and work of Muriel and Doris Lester was a success.

Meals and refreshments were available in the 3 Bees Café throughout the month. The café creates a warm, friendly atmosphere as well as tasty food, and contributes hugely to people’s enjoyment of Kingsley Hall activities.

Some events attracted large audiences. The Inauguration of the World Peace Pathway on 2nd October exceeded all expectations. Over a hundred people came (someone may have counted but I don’t have exact figures) and they were wonderfully diverse in age as well as ethnicity. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, they were impressed by the sculpture itself and united in commitment to peace, which made this event a perfect way to end the month and to remember Muriel and Doris Lester.

The Tea Dance on 15th September also brought in a large audience. The Main Hall, with the Extension available for refreshments, is ideal for this, and more tea dances, with a small charge, are being considered for the future.

Another well-attended event, though it was not part of the public programme, would have pleased Doris Lester. On 25th September around 40 children from Children’s House with some staff and parents visited Kingsley Hall for a ‘picnic’ in the garden. It was a fine day and the children loved the garden, especially the fish in the pond. David provided pots and compost so that they could plant daffodil bulbs and take them home. The food was greatly appreciated (by parents as well as children!) - only a few bread sticks remained.

Music, Drama and Dance Performances

All these events deserved larger audiences.

Three evenings of music were organised by Eastbeat during the anniversary month. The second, on Tuesday 8th September, featuring Richie Milton and the Lowdown, included a demonstration of Lindy Hop dancing, which the small audience thoroughly enjoyed and one or two of them joined in.

On Friday 28th September, Bow Drama Group performed a staged reading of Jill Truman’s play, Common Women, about the women’s protest camp at Greenham Common missile base, a very relevant subject for Kingsley Hall. This, like the performance in 2012 of Jim Kenworth’s play When Chaplin Met Gandhi, proved that Kingsley Hall is very suitable for small scale dramatic performances.

Kingsley Strings on Saturday 29th September was a day dedicated to chamber music, with two string quartets playing music with a link to the opening of Kingsley Hall and the beliefs of its founders.  String quartets are an innovation for Kingsley Hall, though I am sure there were chamber music performances in the early years, and it was wonderful to discover that the acoustic in the Main Hall now suits this music perfectly.

The day also commemorated the Lester sisters’ active support for women’s suffrage. 2018 marks the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which enabled women to vote and stand for Parliament, and before both concerts a group of women sang Ethel Smyth’s March of the Women, the Suffragette anthem.

The Cookham Quartet’s involvement was proposed by violinist Robert Behrman. His sister, who died recently, attended CND meetings at Kingsley Hall for many years. They did not charge for their entertaining and at times moving performances, which included the ‘Peter Pan Suite’ by Henry Walford Davies. Walford Davies laid the Stone of Music at the ceremony that took place in 1927 when building began on the site of Kingsley Hall.

In the evening the Auralio Quartet performed two movements from Ethel Smyth’s String Quartet, along with some lighter music. Smyth’s quartet is a complex work and not easy to learn but the players were enthusiastic about bringing the music of a feminist composer to an East London community centre and would like to play at Kingsley Hall again.

Heritage activities

The 90th anniversary was an opportunity to showcase Kingsley Hall’s heritage.

September 15th was the actual anniversary of the opening of Kingsley Hall and we hoped that some of the remaining veteran Kingsley Hall members and friends and other interested people would visit in the afternoon for an update on our heritage research and share the birthday cake, baked by Sharon in the shape of Kingsley Hall, before the Tea Dance. Tony Lucas was there to talk about Kingsley Hall Dagenham.

Open House on Saturday 21st September was very simple this year, but the tours and the café were appreciated. Visitor numbers were much the same as other years, with no increase as a result of publicity for the 90th Anniversary.

On 28th September tour guide Rachel Kolsky led a Bromley-by-Bow walk focused on the work of the Lester sisters.