The Tabernacle, the heart of London’s pop culture… and Christmas panto

The Rolling Stones, The Clash, Santana, Pink Floyd, REM -and more recently Damon Albarn, Coldplay and Lily Allen- have all rehearsed or performed at “The Tab”, one of London’s most iconic arts and music venues. Built in 1888 as a church, it was turned in the 1970s into a community centre, thus becoming the heart of the Notting Hill carnival. After its recent refurbishment, this symbol of multicultural London offers the public a program including music, theatre, literature and exhibitions, as well as arts schools, children’s puppet shows and a bar and restaurant… and its famous Christmas Portobello Panto!

A little bit of History: the Tabernacle and Powis Square in a few dates

  • 1888: The Tabernacle opens as a “non sectarian Church of Christ”.
  • 1957: Michael de Freitas migrates from Trinidad and Tobago to settle in Powis Square, where he works as a strong-arm man for infamous property racketeer Peter Rachman, one of the few landlords who accepts to rent properties to Black people, but who exploits the situation by overcrowding his decrepit flats and overcharging the tenants.  In the 1960s, Michael de Freitas becomes the leader of the Black Power movement in Britain under the name Michael X. Convicted of murder, he is executed by hanging in 1975.
  • 1958: It is estimated that 7,000 Afro-Caribbeans have settled in Notting Hill, with its Powis and Colville area nicknamed “Brown Town” by racists, as opposed to Notting Dale, situated west of Ladbroke Grove and nicknamed “White City”. Barred from the pubs, the West Indians have built their own scene of illegal “blues” clubs, thus helping to establish Notting Hill as the epicentre of pop culture. During the August bank holiday weekend, some noise complaints about the music trigger violent racial riots, when supporters of Oswald Mosley’s fascist movement surge out of Notting Dale to launch attacks on the “black ghetto”.
  • 1962: Brian Jones, then a resident of Powis Square, founds the Rolling Stones. In June 1969, he is excluded from the band and is found dead in a swimming pool on the 3rd of July of that year, allegedly after a drug overdose.
  • 1966: Powis Square is firmly established in pop culture when Nancy Sinatra appears near a Powis Square street sign on the cover of her “Nancy in London” album, while counterculture action group The London Free School opens at 26 Powis Square in a former brothel opposite David Hockney’s studio. The first Carnival is started on the last weekend of August by community leaders, with the support of The London Free School, as a local celebration for kids and to commemorate the racial riots.
  • 1968: The newly formed Pink Floyd performs their first concerts in All Saints Church Hall, an outpost of the Free London School situated in Talbot road, near Powis Square. That same year, 25 Powis Square is chosen as the setting of Turner’s house in the film Performance, in which the character of rock singer Turner is played by Mick Jagger.
  • 1973: During the “siege of Notting Hill”, squatters occupy The Tabernacle and lock local councillors into All Saints Hall to force them to listen to demands that include opening the Tabernacle as a Community Centre and saving the Electric Cinema from redevelopment.
  • 1974: The Tabernacle becomes a community centre and the official base of the Notting hill Carnival, as well as the home of the Mangrove steel band.
  • 1970s- 1980s-1990s: The Tabernacle establishes itself as an epicentre for new music movements, including reggae, punk and hip hop. Joe Strummer, legendary leader of The Clash and then a resident of Ladbroke Grove, is a regular, while The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd rehearse in its studio and pop bands Curiosity Killed the Cat and All Saints also perform.
  • 1998: The Tabernacle reopens after a massive £4 million refurbishment, featuring a new theatre hall, recording studios, art gallery and a bar and restaurant. The first 21st century Portobello Film Festival is screened there.
  • 2006: Damon Albarn, the founder of pop bands Blur and Gorillaz, rehearses The Good, The Bad and The Queen, the eponym album of his new alternative rock group, at The Tabernacle.
  • 2007: The Christmas pantomime “A Twisted Carol” star singer Lily Allen, actor Ray Winstone and comedian Harry Enfield and is held by The Evening Standard as “London’s hottest ticket”. This show brings public fame to “Portobello Panto”, a company created by Kevin Allen (Lily’s uncle), that takes a cheeky take on the traditional Christmas pantomime show, featuring local children and famous Notting Hill residents.
  • 11 May 2009: Lily Allen performs her new single “Not Fair” in front of 300 guests during a secret gig at The Tabernacle.
  • 31 August 2009: The Tabernacle reopens after a £750,000 refurbishment to launch its new season, after having been bought by Carnival Village, an association promoting multiculturalism in the arts.


The Tabernacle, Powis Square, W11 (Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill). For complete listings and bookings: Tickets for the Christmas Portobello Panto, Monday 14 December 8pm on sale now: