If you don’t know the area, walking down Cable Street at night might feel like stepping into a no man’s land. You’ll soon realise though that behind the seemingly derelict factories lies a strong artistic community.
Cable Studios is an example. Situated in what used to be a sweet factory that was hit by a bomb during the Blitz, the building turned into a centre for small businesses and artists as early as the 1970s. Numerous squatters took over and the corridors of the factory were filled with the smell of fresh paint and turpentine.
By the early 1990s, loud music replaced the smell of paint, as ravers turned the area into one of the most decadent parts of London. By 2000, musicians were setting up recording studios and rehearsal spaces in Cable Studios.
Like many before, Rena Beck and her partner Alastair Clark moved to Cable Studios to find cheap accommodation whilst trying to make a living from their art.
In 2007, a room in the courtyard of what used to be the factory’s canteen and then a prop making company became available. They rented it and opened the space twice a week for open mic and jam nights. Jamboree was born.
With no heating in the main building, a local band started using Jamboree as an open rehearsal space. The musicians would busk at Limehouse station to attract audience members. Other musicians joined in and since then the dance floor is packed more often than not. Jamboree is now open seven nights a week.
Most likely a remnant of Beck and Clark’s time as squatters, there often is a bohemian feel to Jamboree. The music is eclectic, ranging from French musette to Americana, bluegrass or rock. Gypsy is at the heart of this world music venue, with many Klezmer bands and Eastern-European style nights.
Beck goes through a very particular selection process to choose artists from the 10– 30 emails she receives each day. She doesn’t listen to recordings but instead watches the artists perform on YouTube. “For me the quality of the musicians is one factor. Another one is the musicianship they have, their energy and charisma on stage. I always say they are a great band if they make the audience want to be a musician as well.”