Rare footage of the day Cliff Richard got Princess Margaret grooving in Hackney Wick

ALMOST 50 years ago a young Cliff Richard and his band The Shadows took to the stage of a small Hackney church and played rock and roll to 700 screaming teens.

It could have been just another gig in the career of the 1960s heart throb, with one notable exception. Just metres away, politely clapping her hands to the beat, was none other than her majesty Princess Margaret.

With the Princess recovering from a bout of laryngitis and Cliff suffering through the same illness, fans were lucky the 1962 gig took place at all.

Now the rare footage of Cliff and the Princess at St Mary of Eton Church in Hackney Wick will be given a special screening this Saturday, as part of an ambitious project documenting the history of the area. Eagle-eyed viewers will even see Cliff discreetly coughing into a tissue throughout the performance.

The project, run by Space arts studio in Mare Street, aims to document the history of Hackney Cut – a two mile, man-made stretch of the River Lee – and the thriving social and industrial scenes that surrounded it.


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Project organisers have now put the call out for fans who saw the famous gig or residents who have a story to tell about the area surrounding Hackney Cut. Their memories will be recorded at the oral history session on Saturday.

As part of the free event there will also be footage of Hackney Wick’s Lesney toy factory which famously created the matchbox cars of the 1950s and 1960s, the UK’s first ‘Computer Pub’ in 1965, the blundering demolition of the Trowbridge Estate in 1985 of course Cliff Richard’s royal gig.

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Hackney Cut, which runs from Lea Bridge Road in the north to Old Ford Lock in Bow, was originally dug in 1770 as a vital navigation and trade route avoiding the shallows and bends of the old River Lea.

Heritage consultant at Space studio, Lisa Rigg, said: “The area is intrinsically tied to the river canal, supporting a rich industrial, natural and social heritage.

“New communities and industries are moving into the area, permanently altering the social fabric and use of the river canal and we want to preserve oral history testimony for future generations and increase people’s knowledge and appreciation of this heritage.”

Head to Hackney Museum in Reading Lane from 11am to 2pm on Saturday January 22.

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