Back in the late 19th Century, Camberwell was reknowned for its Variety theatres, which included the People’s Palace of Varieties, the Bijou Palace of Varieties, and the pride of the area, the Camberwell Palace of Varieties. This stood from 1899 to 1956 (although it was converted to a cinema in the 1930s) on the site where the Post Office now stands (or slouches).
Variety shows have long since fallen out of fashion, but some people want to bring it back, and they’re holding their first show under the Palace of Varieties banner this Saturday, 2nd February, at St Giles Church Hall on Benhill Road. If this is successful they’re hoping to run a more frequent event at a smaller location, under the Bijou Palace monicker.
After the theatre boom, Camberwell had a cinema boom. Two of the old cinemas are still standing; one is now the International House of Praise (formerly Gala Bingo) on Camberwell Road, and the other is the former Jono’s Snooker Hall on Camberwell New Road, soon to be demolished for a new housing development. I’ve been contacted by someone called Nichol who’s planning to create an audio documentary about the history of Jono’s and is looking for stories about the place, or the people who used to go there. If you’ve got any stories you’d like to share, leave a comment or email me and I’ll put you in touch.
In modern times, Camberwell is better known for its arts scene. A new project called Our Art School is starting a series of workshops with young people in Camberwell and Peckham. Their next project, A Map of Objects, will teach film-making skills, and will take place at House Gallery this Saturday, 2nd February.
The South London Gallery opened in 1891, eight years before the Camberwell Palace, and is still going strong today (albeit having passed through various incarnations). If you’re around on 6th February you should pop in to see the proposed plans for the regeneration of Camberwell centre.