Colville Community Forum
All Saints Church Hall Powis Gardens 1971 by Geoff Reeve. 'Ultimately the Free School did nothing but put out a local underground newsletter and organise the two Notting Hill Gate Festivals, which were, admittedly, models of exactly how the arts should operate – festive, friendly, audacious, a little mad and all taking place on demolition sites, in the streets, and in a magnificently institutional church hall.' Jeff Nuttall, 'Bomb Culture'. In the 60s the architecturally unremarkable post-war hall, on the site of the old peoples' home next to the church on Powis Gardens, became the centre of Colville community action and the hippy music scene.
During the London Free School Fayre and Pageant of 1966, featuring the first Notting Hill Carnival procession, through the week of September 18-23 All Saints church hall hosted 'social nights'. These included an 'international song and dance festival', Charles Dickens amateur dramatics, folk and jazz gigs featuring Alexis Korner and Jeff Nuttall, poetry, choir singing and 'old tyme music hall' presented by the landlord of the Harrow Road Windsor Castle pub.
The Carnival founder Rhaune Laslett recalled Jeff Nuttall's People Band happening involving 'motorbikes and very scantily dressed girls riding pillion, throwing jam covered newspapers and other paint dripping missiles at the audience.' Courtney Tulloch write in International Times of Dave Tomlin of the Third Ear Band's Fantasy workshop 'gallery of peace and relaxation', with Michael X 'cooling it by the door, impersonating a villain but coming over strongly as the saint he is', and Hoppy 'jumping about the place in his camouflage kit, flying on and off the weeny stage looking derelict, like someone had just thrown a home-made Molotov cocktail under his eyebrows.'
After the 1966 Notting Hill Fayre, John 'Hoppy' Hopkins presented London Free School Sound/Light workshops by Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd; advertised as a 'pop dance featuring London's farthest out group the Pink Floyd in interstellar overdrive stoned alone astronomy domini – an astral chant and other numbers from their space-age book light projection slides liquid movies.' Encouraged by the All Saints 'hippy vicar', and promoted by Timothy Leary's 'turn on, tune in, drop out' slogan, this turned into a 10-gig weekly residency.
At All Saints hall, the Pink Floyd Sound dropped the 'Sound' from their name as they transformed from a regular rhythm'n'blues band into Britain's leading psychedelic pioneers; refining their stoned folk pop and the progressive-rock freakouts 'Interstellar Overdrive' and 'Astronomy Domini' that would become their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'. The lyrics of Pink Floyd's second single 'See Emily Play' are said to have been inspired by the looning about in Notting Hill of the sculptor Emily Young. The 'aristocratic flower child', as she was then known, was recruited to the London Free School from Holland Park School, along with the future actress Anjelica Huston.
As well as Notting Hill Carnival, Pink Floyd, psychedelic lightshows and adventure playgrounds, the London Free School launched the hippy underground press in the UK and the rave club scene from All Saints church hall. International Times or IT was a continuation of the Free School newsletter The Gate/The Grove. After Pink Floyd's All Saints hall residency ended in late November, Hoppy and Joe Boyd opened the Night Tripper/UFO psychedelic nightclub on Tottenham Court Road, to finance IT and as a larger venue for Pink Floyd to expand into from Powis Gardens.
All Saints hall also hosted seminal gigs by Hawkwind, Quintessence, David Bowie, during his mime phase promoted by Doug Smith's Clearwater Productions, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Mick Farren, the Action, the Edgar Broughton Band, the Third Ear Band and Tina's Light Theatre, Ram John Holder, the Foundations (then Ramon Sounds), the Blue Notes steel band, 'Shakespeare in Harlem' and Duke Vin sound-system dances.
In 1967 All Saints church hall became the People's Centre of the Notting Hill People's Association and the Notting Hill Community Workshop Summer Project. This was a more serious version of the London Free School, which also produced the People's News paper. The summer of love project mostly consisted of research for George Clark's housing survey of the Colville and Golborne slum areas. Student volunteers paid to carry out the survey in a month long jamboree of interviewing slum tenants and opening play areas.
After the first Grosvenor Square anti-Vietnam war demonstration in 1968, a group of student protesters turned up at a People's Centre meeting in the hall, calling for more direct community action in Powis Square. The Hustler black underground paper reported: 'various opinions at the meeting made for a vigorous, occasionally explosive atmosphere… from raffles to revolution… forcibly open the garden squares, resist rent rises, set up an alternative local government, encourage housing associations, set up a co-operative community bank – all were suggested. "It's time”, said one man, "we started a revolution in North Kensington."
In the late 60s and early 70s there was at least one community group meeting at the hall every night. In 1972 a public meeting about plans for the area under the Westway, at Isaac Newton School on Lancaster Road, was promoted with a poster captioned: 'All Saints church hall is being pulled down', featuring cartoons of the hall, a bulldozer, a rock drummer, a man being hit, and a hippy saying: 'Perhaps a public hall should be built under the flyover.' All Saints hall was duly succeeded as the local community centre in 1975 by the Acklam Hall, on the site of Subterania/Supperclub/Mode nightclub.
The last great Notting Hill protest of the early 70s was the People's Association 'community lock-in' at All Saints hall on the night of May 8/9 1973, in the wake of the controversial Colville/Tavistock housing report. During the extended meeting, reported as 'The Siege of Notting Hill', councillors were forced to listen to locals' demands for compulsory purchase orders to be put on multi-occupied properties, the Electric Cinema to be saved from redevelopment, and the Tabernacle in Powis Square to be opened as a community centre. After the protesters left the hall chanting 'Power to the People! CPO!', the Tory Council leader Malby Crofton famously said, "I am not making any bargains with these bloody anarchists."