Our bi-monthly check in on London venues, featuring Kensington Roof Gardens, Brixton Rooftop, The Montague Arms, Royal Albert Hall, 93 Feet East, Ghost Notes, Wildflower, Studio 88, Rio Cinema and Riverside Studios.
At long last, music venues will no longer need to play second fiddle to property developers.
Venues in London and across the UK have won a seismic victory. The government agreed last week to adopt changes to planning laws that would require developers to be responsible for soundproofing if homes are built near a venue. That’s a big change from today’s rules, in which complaints from new neighbours can shut venues down. Just ask the punters at The George Tavern, Stepney.
Last year, the Commercial Road boozer won a long-running feud with The Swan Housing Group, which had threatened to develop the site next door to the tavern and could have curtailed much of the live music and fun of the historic pub, which boasts a 3am licence. The George fought and it entailed an expensive and long-winded legal challenge. Now, the ‘Agent of Change’ rules – introduced by West Midlands MP John Spellar – will make those fights a thing of the past.
London in Stereo has long called for more support to be given to venues, as well as the recognition that they are vital cultural landmarks. Founder Jess Partridge said: “With 35% of music venues across the country closing in the past decade it is time we said enough is enough. These new planning rules should finally turn the tables to protect venues and put the onus on developers to respect the unique role of music venues in our proud history.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also agreed to include it in the capital’s next Local Plan, which sets long-term guidelines for developers and planners.
SKY’S THE LIMIT
After 37 years of partying, Kensington Roof Gardens has shut its doors. The Grade II-listed west London venue – owned by Richard Branson’s hotels and travel company Virgin Limited Edition – boasted a restaurant, a night club and a flock of famous flamingos roaming the rooftop topiary. Originally built above the Derry & Toms department store, the gardens’ demise was blamed on ‘unpredictable market conditions’. Who knows what’s next for the venue?
It’s not the only rooftop venue out in the cold. Brixton Rooftop will shut this month after retailer Sports Direct bought the building. Renovation plans will force the Pope’s Road pop-up to shut – but not before a final blow-out. The Last Dance Saloon party on January 26-27 promises ‘two nights of hedonistic partying and food’ complete with dozens of DJs.
All eyes are on The Montague Arms in New Cross after it was sold to new owners – with promoters and staff in the dark about its live music plans. One regular Montague Arms promoter told London in Stereo: “All we can really say at this stage is that if we were to lose it as a live music venue it would be a shame for an area that is rife with emerging talent. There aren’t a huge number of spaces for new artists to perform in as it is. Losing another one is only going to make the situation worse.” Watch this space.
The 147-year-old Royal Albert Hall in Kensington has been put under the microscope by the Charity Commission. A long-running feud over trustees selling tickets at inflated prices for their privately owned seats will be settled in the courts. Now that the government has approved the challenge, public hearings are set for later this year.
OPEN UP AND SAY AHHHH…
It all ended in tears in December 2012 when 175 police officers swarmed into 93 Feet East. The raid on the Brick Lane club resulted in Tower Hamlets revoking its licence over drugs offences for which seven people were arrested. Now, the club is set to reopen with a full weekend of partying. The venue – which famously hosted the likes of Radiohead and The White Stripes – returns on January 27 and this time around will focus on house and techno events. Opening night features the DJ talents of Patrice Scott, Santé, Sidney Charles and Archie Hamilton.
Down in Peckham, new venue Ghost Notes is causing a stir. It offers an exciting new platform for South London musicians and artists in the community, with parties staged throughout the week. And if you’re peckish in Peckham, check out its sister venue and vegetarian/vegan canteen Wildflower, which is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch seven days a week.
Meanwhile, a new venue in Leicester Square is set to show off its latest innovation – a human jukebox. Studio 88 opens its doors in February and aims to be the capital’s latest non-stop live music venue. The ‘jukebox’ is a house band which plays only audience requests – just like its sister venue The Piano Works in Farringdon.
Film buffs in east London are in luck after the iconic Rio Cinema in Dalston added a second screen. The art deco venue in Kingsland High Street appealed to the public and raised an impressive £125,000 of crowdfunding to add the new 28-seat screen in the basement. It’s not only good news for film fans but also for the cinema’s staff who may finally receive London’s living wage if business is brisk.
The big screen is also coming back to life at Riverside Studios as it nears completion of its four-year redevelopment. The new-look 90,000 sq ft venue will boast three new studios, a cinema and screening room, a rehearsal space and restaurants/bars looking out over the Thames from its new public walkway.