The Tabernacle

The old tin Tabernacle' on Talbot Road in Powis Square was established in 1869 as a 'non-sectarian Church of Christ' by the Scottish evangelical preacher Gordon Forlong, in opposition to the high church All Saints down the road. On the behind the times 1871 Ordnance Survey map (really what was proposed in the early 1860s) there is a continuous row of houses between Powis Gardens and Aston Road (Powis Terrace).

The Romanesque red brick Talbot Tabernacle was completed in 1888, after the foundation stone (now on display inside) was laid by Lord Shaftesbury. The social reformer Tory MP, who brought about the abolition of child labour, also opened the lecture hall in 1884 shortly before his death. Other famous figures who appeared at the Tab in the early years were the children's homes founder Doctor Barnardo and George Williams who established the YMCA. The Tab's first taste of pop fame was in the 1965 film 'The Knack', Richard Lester's follow up to 'A Hard Day's Night', when Michael Crawford and Donal Donnelly turn up in front of the building during a swinging 60s bedstead chase sequence.

Into the mid 1970s the premises were still being used for religious purposes; at one point it's said to have become a Chinese temple. Then in 1975 the Tabernacle closed as a church and would have been demolished if it were not for another local community campaign, which forced the Council to buy it for use as a community centre.

A Tabernacle meeting was announced by Mike Braybrook, 'to discuss the implications and realisation of a community action centre scheme using the Talbot Tabernacle, January 4 at 6.30pm in All Saints Hall.' As the Tabernacle became the 'focal point for the black Caribbean community in North Kensington', the music changed from Protestant hymns to Rastafarian reggae; there wasn't that much change in the anti-Catholic sentiments of some of the lyrics.

Mike Braybrook's community action posters also included: 'Together Again Make It Big' for a Powis Square bonfire night party, 'Big Night Out at the Tabernacle' featuring Stardust, Black Patch sound-system and Calypso King, and a benefit for the Legalise Cannabis Campaign (based down the road at 2 Blenheim Crescent) by Moa Anbessa and the Mighty Observer sound-system. (There is a Mike Braybrook poster exhibition coming up.)

After the Council was persuaded to buy the building by the Community Action Centre, a committee was formed to run it as a community centre. In 1976 Tony Allen's Corrugated Times reported on plans for the 'Talbot Tabernacle our future fun palace', after Council funding for the conversion ran out. The project was then run by a committee made up of half Council and half community members. The Tabernacle Neighbourhood Association was based at The Point Community Action Centre at 92 Tavistock Road. In 1979, after the Council announced demolition plans, the community activists enlisted the support of the police and the Home Office to get the Tabernacle listed building status. The Council agreed to hand over control of the building to a new committee and the hall opened in 1980.

After the proto-punk Derelicts played one of the first gigs at the Tab in 76, the post-punk Raincoats formed in the Rough Trade shop on Kensington Park Road to play a Tabernacle benefit gig in 77. The reggae promoter Wilf Walker put on a Tab conversion benefit at Porchester Hall headlined by Aswad. At the end of the 70s, Joe Strummer of the Clash appeared at the Tabernacle (at the time of 'London Calling'), as part of the Ladbroke Grove All Stars (a reunion of his pre-punk group the 101'ers). The following new year's eve he reappeared at another 101'ers reunion with the Soul Vendors. The Mighty Observer's Dub Club presented 'an evening of vital selections from Viv Goldman, musical examiner v factions of the Gang of Four.' Into the 80s there were Tab gigs by Misty in Roots, Pearl Harbour and George Melly.

In the late 80s there were hip-hop pronouncements from the pulpit by the Krew, JC001 and Tim Westwood, a graffiti workshop and breakdancing classes at the Tab Talbot youth club. Time Out reviews of W11 Express at the Tab included: 'an ideal venue that attracts a very mixed crowd with its blend of guest DJs spinning the latest big dance beats... the best hip-hop venue in town is back to test the waters so behave yourselves and be quiet when you're outside the club... DJs Rob and Cesare spin the big beat hip-hop and house with live PAs from Goldtop and the ubiquitous Jungle Brothers to house you and take rap into the future.'

In 1988, the Tabernacle's centenary year, Joe Strummer appeared again with his post-Clash group Latino Rockabilly War at a Green Wedge benefit gig. Transvision Vamp's 'Revolution Baby' 12' was released as a benefit record for Green Wedge c/o the Tab, and World Domination Enterprises recommended 'Cab at the Tab, Friday night at the Tabernacle.' Into the 90s, out of Ray Jones's Roughler stand-up nights came the Notting Hill Christmas panto, featuring the likes of Andrea Oliver and Keith Allen, which has become a local celebrity institution.

The Tab Rwanda benefit gig in 1994 featured All Saints, Don-e, Osibisa, Oui 3, Curiosity (without Killed The Cat) and Eon John of Honey Child. The same year the Rolling Stones launched their 'Voodoo Lounge' album on the premises and Right Said Fred trod the Tab boards. In 96 the Tabernacle received a Lottery revamp grant to become the permanent Carnival base and arts centre. In 98 it reopened after the £4 million refurbishment, featuring a new hall, studios, gallery and bar/restaurant run by Allegra McEvedy, previously of Robert de Niro's Tribeca Grill.

At the turn of the century the Tabernacle hosted a gig by Santana, the Mangrove steel band, Beat Dis jazz collective and Portobello2000 internet radio station. After the death of Joe Strummer in 2002 there was a tribute gig at the Tab featuring the surviving 101'ers. In 2006 Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz) and Paul Simonon (of the Clash)'s The Good, the Bad and the Queen group rehearsed and made their debut on the premises, in front of a Simonon painted North Kensington backdrop. The following year Gorillaz Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett rehearsed their 'Monkey' opera.

As the Tabernacle was relaunched as the Carnival Village centre in 2009, Lily Allen played a secret gig, on the site of her first stage appearance in the Notting Hill panto in the early 90s, Florence + the Machine appeared with Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, and a Take That concert was staged. In 2011 Adele made a showcase appearance as her second album '21' was released by the XL label down Blenheim Crescent. In the 2012 Tab panto 'Twisted' Mick Jones of the Clash sang 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'

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