Bentley’s, set up in what was then the National Front stronghold of Canning Town, all too briefly became a legendary weekend mecca for soul, hip-hop and reggae
In 1983, Canning Town in the borough of Newham in east London returned the highest number of votes for the National Front in the country. A year later, the 16-year-old Black boy Eustace Pryce was murdered during a confrontation with racists in the area. By 1986 Newham registered the UK’s highest number of racist attacks. “It was a no-go area for Black people,” says Zak, then manager of London Weekend Radio (LWR). “People in cars would be shouting obscenities and calling you the N-word. It was a hostile environment.”
Despite this, between 1982 and 86, Black people from all across London drove to Canning Town in their thousands to dance all night in an underground sweatbox to soul, jazz-funk, rare groove, hip-hop and reggae. Bentley’s was a club in an old pub beneath an underpass. Unglamorous perhaps, but for those four years it became a bustling go-to destination. As part of Newham Heritage Month, the community interest company Rendezvous Projects has been digging into its influential history to produce a new booklet and podcast on the club.
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