History of the HACKNEY PLAYERS
Valerie Day/David Trowbridge

In 1970 an article in What’s on in Hackney, placed by Bill Huband asked for anyone interested in forming an amateur drama group to a meeting  at Hackney Town Hall and under the auspices of Hackney Council’s Library Committee The Hackney Players were born. The first proper meeting of the group was at Dalston Library on 21st of September that year.

In early March of 1971 we presented our first play ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ at the Stoke Newington  Art Gallery. Full length and One –Act plays were produced there until the roof collapsed in 1972.

 Councillor Arthur Harrison (later Mayor) invited the group to use Summit Hall on the Summit Estate in Upper Clapton for our performances (rehearsals were then at Stamford Hill Library) and in March 1973 we staged the comedy ‘Breath of Spring’ to a packed hall.

The next presentation was a Victorian Melodrama ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ which on its own was too short to sustain an evening and The Gladys Road Show was invited to provide an ‘Old Time Music Hall’ for the first half of the evening. We were now becoming known in the area and in 1973 were approached by St Thomas Church, Upper Clapton to present a pageant ‘300 years of Hackney’ in their crypt. It was a great success. So much so that they asked us back the next year this time to do an ‘Old Time Music Hall’. With some trepidation we agreed. We felt that if The Gladys Road Show could do it then so could we! We could and did it better! Encouraged by this success we did it again, this time at Summit. More bookings followed and revised versions were presented at Estate Halls throughout the borough. We continued staging plays (full length and one acts) at Summit and the ‘Music Hall’ became a touring staple. We even presented it south of the river!

In November 1994 we broke fresh ground again with our first full length pantomime ‘Cinderella’. A great success and the first of many.

In 1995 there were security problems at Summit, with thefts and some damage. We thought that until the hall could be secured that we needed to find another venue. Happily Father Keith at St Judes Church allowed us to use their Church Hall and we staged several productions there. In 2003, however, we were given the opportunity to return to Summit with ‘Hay Fever’ and continued there until 2005 when the Estate lost it’s Committee, the hall it’s insurance and we our principal venue.

 As well as the Music Hall we had toured our production of ‘Frankenstein’ in 1978 to other venues including Hoxton Hall. In 1994 we presented ‘Medea’  and in 1995 ‘Stevie’ at The Boiler House Theatre for the Stoke Newington Festival.  In 2002 we were asked by The Palmers Green Stevie Smith Festival to give another production of ‘Stevie’ at The Intimate Theatre, to celebrate the poet’s centenary.

While we were homeless the The Wellington Bar & Lounge kindly allowed us to use their back bar for rehearsals and in 2005 we presented ‘Trap for a Lonely Man’ at The Emery Theatre, Poplar. We also put on two short Chekhov plays at The Wellington in March 2006.
 
In 2006 after negotiating a contract with Hackney Council we returned to Summit Hall. Our first presentation on our return to Summit in January 2007 was our successful traditional pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk'.
When the contract expired in 2011 Summit was falling into disrepair and the Council declared that the hall could no longer be used for public performances and our contract would not be renewed. However we have been offered the use of Morland Estate Community by the Council and have start meeting in October 2011 and performed "Talking Heads" in January 2012.