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GES019 - Hammersmith Palais Theatre

June 2010

"I'm the white man in the Palais, Just lookin' for fun" so sang Joe Strummer in June 1978. 32 years later, another white man was in the Hammersmith Palais, 3 years after it had closed, namely, moi. N.B. Slightly worse than usual, my pics aren't that great due to forgetting the tripod mount for the camera, and having to use a gorillapod wrapped around the tripod. It's also not so easy a place to get back into for re-shooting.

The building started life in the late 19th Century as a tram shed for London United Tramways Ltd. However by the teens of the 20th Century, trams started falling out of favour for the cheaper motor buses operated by London General (LGOC). The shed was taken over by an entertainment company, and in 1919 began offering ballroom dances and Jazz bands that were starting to become popular, the Hammersmith P de Danse (still seen on the wall that faces the tube station) was the new name, later shortened to the Hammersmith P.The early dances became a great social leveller, as upper and lower class people mixed openly. (This photo is actually from 1963 - posted on Flickr)

Hammersmith Palais 1963

The Hammersmith 

P Theatre

was a major venue responsible for breaking Jazz in Britain. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) held residence early on and like the Sex Pistols gig at Manchester Free hall, went on to inspire many locals to get into Jazz, including Harry Gold, who puts a ODJB gig as his main inspiration for getting into Jazz, Harry Francis is another inspired by the ODJB. Other acts included, The Southern Rag-a-Jazz Band, The Paramount Six, Billy Madden's Crescent City Orchestra and Bennie Peyton's Jazz Kings (below (c) Jazzhound).

 

After a decade of operation, the Palais began to lose some of it's appeal, and the owners decided to install and ice rink at the end of 1929. The London Lions ice hockey team were based here. The ice rink lasted until late 1934, when it reverted back to a dance hall, hosting Big bands and Dance orchestras like the Lou Praeger Orchestra who held residence from 1940 through the blitz into the late 50's. Then acts like The Ted Heath Band and Joe Loss would often perform. In the 1950's, the venue was used for TV programmes featuring Jazz and Ballroom dancing, such as 'Palais Party'.

In the 1960s, the venue was acquired by the Mecca entertainment group. The music policy began to change, and pop groups began to perform, The Kinks being an example. The 1970's brought rock, punk acts and reggae. It was while watching reggae acts Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson, that Joe Strummer was inspired to write (White Man) In Hammersmith

P Theatre

. Other famous bands that would play here during this period were PiL, The Cramps, and Soft Cell (who played their "farewell" there in 1984), The Cure, Hanoi Rocks, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Sex Pistols and in 1980, The Clash played twice.

 

After the mid 1980's, the venue diversified again, and was instrumental in breaking Brit-Asian club acts, including Badd Company, RDB, Panjabi Hit Squad and Juggy D. The venue continued to host live acts of varying types, as well as corporate functions, award shows and alternative events like the Skin Two Ball for fetish lovers, and School Disco. In 2000 the venue was purchased by Barclub Ltd, who changed the name to Po Na Na. Another change of ownership in 2003, and it was back to the Hammersmith P@lais Theatre.

During this period the venue was host to the NME Awards, where bands like Hard-Fi and Kasabian played. Here Jamie T on stage (c) Flickr


The last ever gig was on 1st April 2007, where Mark E Smith's The Fall were the last to grace the stage. On Friday 20th April 2007, the 'Chirps' closing down party was held. Shortly after workmen went in and stripped the building. After 90 years of rich musical history, it is now another decaying white elephant, awaiting it's death sentence from the builders wrecking ball.

As it once looked ( (c) http://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk)

As it looks now.

Bright and early on a Sunday morning, I stood quietly looking as if I was waiting for someone on Shepherds Bush Road, a road that is busy 24/7 and has bus stops either side of the road by the venue. If that wasn't a problem, a few doors down was Hammersmith Police Station. Getting in without being seen was not going to be easy. However I did it, and after much fiddling about and ducking from double decker buses, I was in. I'd been here a couple of times over the years when it was open. I remember walking through the multiple entry doors into the venue. However it never looked as bad as this.

A pillar showed a brief reminder of the tackier side the venue used to have.

Walking into the venue past the familiar red walls.

Past the tiled coat check area.

And into the venue.

It had been used for transients to sleep rough as well as parties after the venue closed, and there was a small bit of evidence to suggest their presence.

Looking across the centre of the room, the main stage (if it were still there) faces the camera.

I looked around for evidence of the tram tracks and ice rink, allegedly still present, but couldn't see any. I climbed the stairs to the first floor.

A view of the main hall (well duh!)

And from the VIP area at the opposite end fo the main hall

Strangely, the VIP area, was an place i'd never visited before. Doesn't look too VIP now.

Looking down to where the stage was from the side of the main hall and it's mirrored sides.

It was then a walk around to the side of the main hall that overlooks the stage, a few fitting's still remained.

One of the things I love about exploring, is seeing the behind the scenes goings on, that as a regular punter you never see. Up some small stairs were the management offices. Mostly piled up with crap and such like. This was where the company that stripped the building were based.

From here it was out onto the roof, and the rather sad site of the sign that used to sit proudly out front of the Palais Theatre.

Looking north across the roofs and internal courtyard, one can see the lights on of Hammersmith Police station. Eek!

An old tower goes up next to the Palais Theatre near the tube station.

I resisted the urge to climb the tower, as there were goings on at the Hammersmith & City Line tube station below.

Climbing down I went to investigate the open courtyard areas that are in the Northern end of the site, right next door to hammersmith cop shop. There were some odd shop fronts painted on the walls in an outside area.

Some graffiti artists had used the place during it's interim period between closure and lock down.

More shop frontage, and the emergency exit doors onto the street. The 28DL supremo has a presence here!

Taken from inside the stuff windowless dressing room, where the stars prepared themselves before going on stage. Bono, Bowie and erm Tom Meighan have all been in here. The sign on the door reads "You're going on stage, Smile."

The dressing room entrance is near the doors at the end of the passage. While walking up this passage, the musicians would be psyching themselves up for their performance.

A building with no obvious purpose sits between the P Theatre and the Police Station, it looks down onto the courtyard outside the Palais Theatre.

You can see the full roof of the P Theatre here, the tower on the far left. I'm guessing all the vegetation sprang up in the last 3 years.

walking down a set of stairs in the building, there were countless leaflets for the last ever event at the P Theatre, the Chirps closing party.

I'd seen it all, and activity was increasing outside, so I needed to leave while I wouldn't attract too much attention. What's the future for the P Theatre? The wrecking ball i'm afraid.

Taken from The nextdoor tube station, evidence of a former life.

**Update June 2012** - The Palais has now sadly been demolished.