Our bi-monthly check in on London venues, featuring The Good Mixer, The Cause, Old Fountain Studios, Sensorium, Arcola Theatre & more!

New venues are good news for Londoners. Yet the newest – the Alexandra Palace Theatre currently undergoing a £19million renovation thanks to its sister venue next door – is already 143 years old.

Opened in 1875, the theatre was a place of ‘spectacle and delight’ where audiences of up to 3,000 people were entertained by pantomime, opera, drama and ballet. A feat of Victorian engineering, the impressive stage machinery was designed so that performers could appear, fly into the air and disappear through the stage.

However, it struggled to compete with the might of the West End and the theatre was transformed into a cinema, a chapel and the home of music hall stars. Later, it became a BBC prop store and workshop. For 80 years it has been closed to the public, a hidden gem perched high above the city.

You can a sneak peek when the theatre’s doors are opened to host a BBC Proms concert on September 1st. The BBC Concert Orchestra’s performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s one-act comic masterpiece, Trial By Jury, will be a rare chance to experience the theatre before construction finishes and it’s opened to the public.

Another surprise has popped up – this time in Hackney Wick. The Giant Steps sound system has begun an exciting summer residency at a Victorian warehouse complex at Swan Wharf in Dace Road. The canal-side terrace and indoor event space is open until September 19th from Wednesdays to Sundays. And every weekend there is a full programme of daytime events, live music performances and parties.


[Image – Old Fountain Studios]

 

SOUNDS LIKE LONDON

London mayor Sadiq Khan has been making the right noises on protecting the capital’s independent small venues. Now he’s putting his money where his mouth his and leading a month-long celebration of London’s grassroots venues and young musical talent, called Sounds Like London.

Highlights of fun this month include:

Fightback London – A nightly series of gigs to raise money for the Music Venue Trust and its work to help venues faced with closure.

DJ workshops and showcase at Fabric – Free, women-only DJ and producer workshops at Point Blank Music School in Haggerston.

Airbnb and Little Concert series – Emerging female artists perform in unusual spaces and grassroots venues, including a concert in Tower Bridge.

Deaf Rave and The Midi Music Company at Fabric – Mix of deaf and female DJs perform with newcomer singer/songwriters.

BBC Music Introducing showcase – All-female line-up featuring of young artists, hosted by DJ Abbie McCarthy.

Girls of Grime – Female grime artists, including The Grime Violinist, takeover Dalston on June 17th.

Soho Music Month – A celebration of Soho’s musical heritage featuring gigs, walking tours, in-store fun and an independent record market.

Seven Dials Soundtrack – Live music and street food around the traffic-free streets of Seven Dials on June 23rd.

For more times, line-ups and details, click here.

 

PAPER DRESS GOES LATE

It’s official. The Hackney Central area now has another late-night venue after vintage clothing boutique and nightspot Paper Dress won extended hours from the council.

The long-winded victory means a late weekend licence that allows the eclectic venue to stay open until 3am on Saturdays and 2.30am on Fridays. It makes it only the third late licence in the area, joining Oslo (4am) and Moth Club (1am).

 

[Image – The Good Mixer]

 

ALL MIXED UP

It’s not just a new coat of paint in Inverness Street. It’s a new owner at The Good Mixer in Camden who has spared the rockers’ pub from being turned into flats.

Built on a bomb site in the 1950s, its name is derived from the cement mixer that was absent-mindedly trapped in the pub during its construction. It was slated to be re-developed – and even hosted a goodbye party in January, as reported by the Camden New Journal.

The newspaper later reported its joyous re-opening in April after being bought by an unnamed ‘third party’ and its refurb, complete with Britpop-packed free jukebox. New manager Sarah Holgate – who runs the Magic Roundabout in Old Street and the Near & Fear cocktail bar in Peckham – says it will stay a ‘traditional boozer’.

 

ORGANIC GROWTH

A new club in Tottenham is turning heads. The 400-capacity crowd-funded nightclub called The Cause is built within an old car mechanic’s depot near Tottenham Hale station.

It’s no frills – but it does have a 5am licence and the first custom-built Core sound system in the world. Even better, the brutalist concrete DIY space is raising £25,000 in funds this year for three mental health charities through its membership scheme.

The Cause was created by two friends, Stuart Glen and Eugene Wild, who say they run ‘off-grid parties across London’s most unique spaces, featuring unannounced line-ups spanning disco, house, electro and techno’.

“The Cause is designed from the ground up to give back to people around us,” added Stuart.

Another charity receiving funds from the nightclub is local community garden Grow Tottenham. The innovative space is spread over 10,000sqft and has a 5am licence at weekends.

Launched from the abandoned civil engineering depot in 2014, the self-funded garden uses the income it generates from its café, bar and event space to maintain its wildflower meadow, kitchen garden, micro-allotment plots, polytunnel, community kitchen and carpentry workshop.

[Image – Swan Warf]

 

TV PARTY TONIGHT?

Promoters LWE – aka London Warehouse Events, who are specialists at finding and reviving unusual venue spaces in the city – have opened a new venue in Wembley Park.

Called the Old Fountain Studios, it once played home to loads of TV and film work as both Fountain Studios and Wembley Studios. It’s an ‘ideal’ venue because it has a range of rigging options – which means LWE’s head of production, Loz Poulton, can fix a substantial L’Acoustics sound system over the dancefloor. “We’ll also be flying trussing with a complex tessellating lighting design, which I’m super excited about,” as well as installing more than 85 lasers.

But act fast. The pop-up venue won’t last forever. Set to be demolished, it’s just a small part of the sprawling 85-acre re-development of Wembley Park. Bought by Quintain in 2002, the developers have spent more than £1billion transforming the area around the new Wembley stadium.

Meanwhile, the LWE crew bring the party to Boston Manor Park this weekend (June 9th) for their Junction 2 festival under the M4. They’ve invested heavily in the site, building bridges and stages under the motorway as well as into the woods. Read our preview here as Carl Cox, Joy Orbison and Nina Kraviz prepare to take the stage.

 

LISTEN UP

The world’s first full sensory immersive venue for the arts and events has opened beneath Waterloo station. Called Sensorium, it boasts of ‘providing an unrivalled blank canvas’ for art exhibitions, installations, events and live performances.

And finally, the Arcola Theatre in Dalston has been awarded £30,000 in Heritage Lottery funding to train 42 volunteers to document the stories of marginalised local residents – including those from ‘disability, sex work, LGBTIQ+, BDSM and survivor communities’. As reported by the Hackney Citizen, the recorded stories will be preserved in the Hackney Museum and The MayDay Rooms in Fleet Street.

“We hope that that empathy and understanding can help us to build a more inclusive and equitable society,” said the Arcola’s participation manager, Bec Martin-Williams.

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