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Brick Lane Birthday Blog!

February 13, 2014

Gales and storms lashing the country, with the South and West hit badly today. Dressing Room Number one is directly underneath the spire of this former Church- it has a false ceiling, but above you could hear the wind howling, and the rain beating down. Glad to be indoors!


Despite the terrible weather the coaches pulled up and a full house arrived- from Folkestone, from Kent and from Essex- brave and hardy souls on a day out for a bit of cheering up! A really appreciative matinee tea crowd in today- and with the “Busy Bee” gag at full force, I wondered if David Cameron might turn up at any minute in his wellies!

The Music Hall matinee yesterday was full too, I gather, with Joni Talks joining the company here. Number One dressing room must have seemed spacious with only three residents! Back to normality and five of us under the spire today.

Today Vincent announced to our audience the Birthday celebrations for this Music Hall. It is Twenty-Two years to the day since he opened the first Theatre in Brick Lane.


This is the third building created by Vincent Hayes to keep the spirit of Music Hall alive- First Brick Lane, then Curtain Row and now in the former St Mark’s Church here in Newham.

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Twenty-Two years ago today- in February 1992,  a former Truman’s Brewery Stables opened its door to present Music Hall. Vincent was in the chair. That chair is here in the current bar, and has followed him to each venue. The Bill that night featured Brian Walker, Judith Hibbert, Julia Sutton and Dockyard Doris

Brian Walker is currently working for Brick Lane taking Music Hall out and about to care and residential homes, and taking the Music Hall into community centres and homes. The raffle that is held during each show here helps to provide this essential entertainment, and specialises in visiting long stay homes in London and the South East.

Zara Kattan was at the first Brick   Lane for the opening show. She began as a waitress, and then as one of a group of “singing” waitresses before taking over the running of the Box Office the following year. She has been totally involved with the administration and productions ever since.

Zara recalled her first day at the converted Truman Brewery site, when the building was not quite open. She saw what appeared to be a caretaker sweeping up. He then jumped up on to the stage and did a sound check. She wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, and was introduced to the “caretaker” – Vincent Hayes, and realised the unique set-up she had walked in to.

Within three weeks the stress of running and opening the venue affected Vincent, and he fell foul of a virus. He remembers sliding down the wall of the building, and very little else! Dockyard Doris took over presenting the show until he recovered.

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The format then was to put on a Music Hall show four days a week, Wednesday to Saturday, changing the show twice a month.

On the Brick Lane’s First Birthday Barbara Windsor came to the theatre and appeared in a show. Danny La Rue came along to watch, and that began his involvement in the BrickLaneMusic Hall for the years that followed. Danny became a regular star turn at the Theatre in all its addresses.

When I did my radio 2 interview on Panto with Barbara in November she called “Brick Lane” her Lucky charm Theatre. She told me how she appeared at the venue in her show. Vincent suggested the second half (after her tribute to Marie Lloyd) would be a good setting for a Question anmd answer session. A BBC Producer happened to be there, saw Barbara and thought “I wonder why she’s never done Eastenders?”. Peggy Mitchell was born there and then!

The First Brick Lane Pantomime was in  the December of 1992. It was “Dick Whittington”- not a coincidence that we’re doing it again then! It had Graham Richards as Dame, Vincent as Silly Billy, Brian Walker and Robert Meadmore as King Rat.

Brian was ill for a performance and Zara found herself taking to the stage with a drawn on moustache and playing his role at a moments notice!


A recent Music Hall- Paul & Vincent

The Shipwreck scene was a puppet representation, and the panto was written by Peter John.

In the years that followed Tommy Osbourne and the late great Phil Starr played in pantomime here. To this day Phil’s lengthy joke about a bus conductor and a nun remains embedded in my soul. I used to love watching the audience when he came to the punchline in his dry acerbic manner- there would be a moment of silence as they thought about it, and then an enormous wall of laughter that went on for ages. What a talent! What a performer!

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Twenty Two Years later and the laughter is still to the fore, and Dick Whittington is playing to full houses. Vincent is now an MBE for services to Music Hall, and  Silvertown in Newham is its home.


Vincent & Jeremy Paxman. Brick lane was the locationof a Documentary about World War One.It was aired on January 27th this year.






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