Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Venue Pre-history

The Venue in New Cross Road has a long history as a place of entertainment. It opened as the New Cross Super Kinema in 1925, with a cinema on the ground floor and the New Cross Palais de Danse above, as well as a cafe. The name was shortened to New Cross Kinema from 1927, the plain Kinema in 1948, and finally Gaumont in 1950. It closed in August 1960, and remained derelict for some time. Part of the building was demolised before the old dancehall became The Harp Club and then The Venue (the picture here is from the 1920s).

There is an account of going out dancing in the 1940s here:


'Our favourite little places for dancing was the New Cross Palais, it never had drinks licence or anything like that, and it's now The Venue painted black! At Laurie Grove Baths, they used to cover it over with a beautiful floor over the swimming pool, and there'd be a proper band. But New Cross Palais had the best band, because it was Art Tullock and his band and it was a beautiful dance floor. I can't remember how much it was, I think it was about two shillings. We used to go to Greenwich Town Hall, and dance to records, it was a shilling on a Tuesday, and walk home. Go on the tram because you didn't want to get your hair all messed up, and walk home. Two shillings at the Palais, and Sunday it used to be Club Day only, but we used to go up and stand outside, and some of the lads would come up, and they'd sign us in you see, so we used to get in that's what we used to do.

We didn't do a lot of drinking in those days, only if the young lads from our youth club used to go up there. Hardly any of them could dance, but they used to suggest the three of us might go up the Marquis, and we'd have a larger and lime, and then go back to the dance thing. There wasn't a lot of money around in those days".

Al Tallack and his Band were the resident musicians at New Cross Palais right through the war and up until about 1956 (Tallack was born in Woodpecker Road in New Cross).

22 comments:

Stuart said...

Is there any more detailed history of the Venue anywhere online?
I, and a whole load of people, would love to read more about it...
:-)

Transpontine said...

I don't think anyone has written up a detailed history, on this site previously we have included some old flyers from the 1990s (click on link from 'Venue' in post above). If anybody has any flyers/memories add them as a comment or send them, perhaps we can build up a more detailed history here.

Transpontine said...

I've just added a new label field 'New Cross Venue' which links to previous posts about it, including Kurt Cobain's visit.

Reidski said...

Wasn't it the Flim-Flam Club before it was the Venue or was that just the name for one of its club nights? I gather that proper bands are playing there again after years of those annoying tribute bands. My highlight was seeing Teenage Fanclub there in about 1990.

Inspector Sands said...

My grandparents used to do their courting at the New Cross Palais, a good half-century before I'd be guzzling cider there and failing to get off with girls.

Transpontine said...

In between being the Kinema/Palais de Danse and The Venue it was the Harp Club, an Irish dance hall but which also hired out for people to put on nights including Flim-Flam (Jonathan More later of Coldcut) and Million Rubber Bands (indie club, apparently always played Louie Louie as last record).

Vaughan Evans - vevans@uk.ey.com said...

I, along with my mates went to the Harp Club alot in the mid/late 80's when when the club was a "Million Rubber Bands". It was the just about the only "Indie" Night Club in London at the time. It was a Mecca. The DJ was a girl called Alison - dark haired in a Robert Smith fashion - quite Punky as you would imagine, and assisted by an American called Mimi (who worked at Virgin TCR). AMRB used the ballroom, whilst an Irish social club carried on upstairs. The clib was very basic - very formica. The Irish club upstairs served the usual crappy eighties food - shit pies etc so a host of the "Punks" downstairs came up for sustenance - there was never any friction - it was really cool. When I started going, about 1985/6 the club had an elemnt of cross dressing, maybe one or two individuals, perhaps attracted by the eclectic mix - Indie/Glam including Rocky Horror (I really hated that - the music not themix of people. The club played really good indie stuff - Fall, Wedding Present, Smiths, Primitives, alot of the Bristol scene, New Wave stuff, Jesus and Mary Chain etc. Even Half Man's Bob Todd and at the end either REM's THe End of the World or Bithday by the Icelandic Pixie. A feature was also "Almost Prayed" by the "Weather Prophets" one of Alan McGee's almost bands. There was so much good music then. The Harp Club was just ... Fantastic! An oasis in the disco shite of London. It was so cool, never any trouble, never any threatening behaviour. A Million Rubber Bands moved to the Albany Empire in Deptford, close by for a stint - perhaps overlapping with Mimi holding on in the Harp Club with "Totally Wired" in the Harp Club for a while. I remember dancing to 24 party people (on my own) so it went on for a few years, including periods across the road in the "Goldsmiths Arms??" where Vic Reeves kicked off. Mimi moved on to the "Surprise" in Clerkenwell and then to the Powerhouse in Islington with Shagger Steve, her erstwhile Morrissey cut accomplice - where they hosted such acts as "The Man from Del Monte" and Hooky's New Order offshoot - Monaco amongst better groups i cant remember - I have a horrible feeling I missed Oasis there. This became an All Bar One later. Anyway, the Harp Club played a big part in the life of Indie Music in London the late 1980's, something that shouldn't be underestimated!!

Transpontine said...

Thanks Vaughan, interesting stuff. Don't suppose you've got any pictures?

robert said...

I´m Robert and I used to run and promote both Flim Flam (with Jonathan and Charles)and also A Million Rubber Bands (with Alison and Louis)at the Harp Club (later the venue). Some good years and many good nights, we also put on a bunch of bands ranging from Wire, Primal Scream, The Beloved and The Band of Holy Joy. I´m glad that there are still folks out there who enjoyed and were maybe inspired a bit by our nights to go and do there own thing

Transpontine said...

Good to hear from you Robert. Anyone got any old flyers from these clubs that they'd care to scan and I'll post them.

robert said...

Dear Transponte,

I don´t have any flyers, but the guy who did all the art work with me for both Flim Flam and A Million Rubber Bands can be contacted at the following e-mail info@hotelredfish.com he has or had all the originals of all the (handouts) flyers. We both now live in Brazil, me in RJ and Charles in Salvador.

robert said...

PS. If anyone one for any reason wishes to contact me robert@rupeerupee.com.br

Geoffrey Nutkins said...

This is Terence Baker. I too have very, very fond memories of the Harp Club. It was known as Flim Flams for a while, and I remember the very pretty, tousle-haired DJ. Mimi was a strong character, shall we say, adn the Irish owner of the club barred for some reason I will never know. I used to do the lights on occasion, when Lucy and Iain used to do the music, and I was paid what for me at the time was a huge amount of money for doing so. There were always three clubs going on at the same time. The main space was the indie club, where the Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Beloved, XTC, Primitives, Smiths, Voice of the Beehive, Wedding Present, Age of Chance, etc., dominated the scene; upstairs was the Irish club, and because I liked--despite my on-my-sleeve punk-indie credentials--that music, I would gravitate up there near to 2 a.m. Reiterate the previous comment that there never was any problems. Downstairs and accessible via a completely different door was a black club, but they used to throw out their clients at perhaps five or six in the morning, as opposed to three, so we never saw them as we waited for the nightbus home. Then I moved to New Cross, to the infamous Sanford Street housing cooperative, where most of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine's roadie crew used to live. The years of 1986/87/88/89 were downright fun in that place--Ray, Sharon, Tony, Mark Korda-Gregson, Tim Whelan from Furniture and Transglobal Underground, and endless nights drinking down the Dewdrop Inn when it was as cool as the Harp Club. Being down there on the night before landlady Mary and her crew went off to Portugal and each pint was either 5p or free was one of the magickal nights of southeast London. We had to crawl over people's heads to get to the alcohol. And then that bar went from bad to worse. The first pub we frequented in that area was the Goldsmith's Tavern. I think it was a gay bar then, although it took us several visits before that sunk through out naivite. The Venue had some good years, but I moved to the States just around the time it put on a million crap tribute bands. I was there for the infamous Snuff gig where there were more people on stagem than off it, also Nova Mob, D.O.A. and Death in June/Current 93 and Sol Invictus.

Geoffrey Nutkins said...

This is Terence Baker. I too have very, very fond memories of the Harp Club. It was known as Flim Flams for a while, and I remember the very pretty, tousle-haired DJ. Mimi was a strong character, shall we say, adn the Irish owner of the club barred for some reason I will never know. I used to do the lights on occasion, when Lucy and Iain used to do the music, and I was paid what for me at the time was a huge amount of money for doing so. There were always three clubs going on at the same time. The main space was the indie club, where the Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Beloved, XTC, Primitives, Smiths, Voice of the Beehive, Wedding Present, Age of Chance, etc., dominated the scene; upstairs was the Irish club, and because I liked--despite my on-my-sleeve punk-indie credentials--that music, I would gravitate up there near to 2 a.m. Reiterate the previous comment that there never was any problems. Downstairs and accessible via a completely different door was a black club, but they used to throw out their clients at perhaps five or six in the morning, as opposed to three, so we never saw them as we waited for the nightbus home. Then I moved to New Cross, to the infamous Sanford Street housing cooperative, where most of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine's roadie crew used to live. The years of 1986/87/88/89 were downright fun in that place--Ray, Sharon, Tony, Mark Korda-Gregson, Tim Whelan from Furniture and Transglobal Underground, and endless nights drinking down the Dewdrop Inn when it was as cool as the Harp Club. Being down there on the night before landlady Mary and her crew went off to Portugal and each pint was either 5p or free was one of the magickal nights of southeast London. We had to crawl over people's heads to get to the alcohol. And then that bar went from bad to worse. The first pub we frequented in that area was the Goldsmith's Tavern. I think it was a gay bar then, although it took us several visits before that sunk through out naivite. The Venue had some good years, but I moved to the States just around the time it put on a million crap tribute bands. I was there for the infamous Snuff gig where there were more people on stagem than off it, also Nova Mob, D.O.A. and Death in June/Current 93 and Sol Invictus.

Transpontine said...

Good to hear from you Terrence. By the way, are you saying that members of Furniture and Transglobal Underground used to live in Sanford co-op? That would be a couple of good ones to add to my list of bands with New Cross connections/

Geoffrey Nutkins said...

Hi Transportine,
Yes, Tim Whelan lived there for a number of years (1985-1990), I imagine, and there were road-crew members living there, too, for Carter USM and crusty bands such as Back to the Planet.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Terrence/Geoffrey, I have now posted on
Tim Whelan

Pauly said...

The only real band I saw at the venue was David Devant and his Spirit Wife, I think it was 20th December 1996, I don't know what period of the Venue that fits in to, or what part of the building it was in. I moved to Mornington Road in New Cross in 2000 when The Venue only had tribute bands, I remember Are We Them (can you tell who that was a tribute to?) and indie clubs upstairs.

Anonymous said...

It's weird finding this after all these years, I used to work for Robert dj'ing at A Million Rubber Bands with Alison, and across the road at Goldsmiths, and the Albany Empire. We took over for a bit when Robert/Charles moved on and hired Mimi eventually. A good few years with 500-1000 punters on a sat night before it fizzled out as the Venue. I remember people going mental to the cult (She Sells Sanctuary), The Sonics, the Stooges etc. Never any trouble, the Irish owner Pat Reilly (also had the Amersham Arms) and his gang of staff/bouncers were always good. Good times with Mary and Brian at the Dew Drop Inn too (now got a website about that time). I still have the flyers/posters/press cuttings from AMRB. Thought it was great the Undertones/That Petrol Emotion O'Neills used to dance to their own records. Left in '89, wouldn't go back but good memories, cheers Louis

Anonymous said...

Yep I remember when it was the Harp Club Rob Lancaster put my band on Easter and the Totem www.myspace.com/easterandthetotem25a band called Hot Murder containing Vic Reeves (good job he stuck to comedy )

I also saw amongst others Gang of 4,Test Dept,Comsat angels and an NME night with Conershop who played the most shambolic set I have ever seen.Goodjob Brim full of Asha got a remix!

Rob Lancaster is a great bloke who went on to manage the Beloved and Band of Holy Joy.I think the Irish guys who ran the club ended up at the Amersham Arms.

Tim Cott was a great guy from Cork we used to have a quiz every monday night and when one of the smart arses from Goldsmiths College looked like winning they would put in some Irish horseracing questions in.

Some very happy days indeed.I even ended up as a an elected Councillor for New Cross from 1990 to 1994
Mike Barry

Hariklia said...

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found this blog and these brilliant comments. They mention all the places I used to go to and the music I was listening to when I lived in New Cross 1986-1988. I did indeed go mental dancing to She Sells Sanctuary at A Million Rubber Bands. It was also the venue I first saw The Band of Holy Joy.

I've used some comment 'bits' on my blog. I hope no one minds. If you do, email me and I'll take them off. Cheers! Hariklia
http://hariklia-what-she-said.blogspot.com/

Susan said...

I lived in a flat on New Cross Road directly across from Goldsmith's Tavern and 20 steps away from the Harp Club and I went there all the time for many many shows... '86-'88 Million Rubber Bands along with the Flim Flam club with the older Irish crowd. I also went to the reggae club through the separate entrance. I didn't know it at the time, but getting in was hush hush and all because it kept getting raided by the police. I think it was called the Warehouse? Normally, everyone got along fine with everyone else but the very first time I went to the Harp Club, a skank girl fight broke out and one got stabbed. (not badly) Otherwise, I never saw any problems. I went to the Dew Drop Inn all the time. Mary was great and ran a good crowd. She would run out anybody who caused trouble. I became good friends with the blokes who ran the off license next door to the Harp Club..... said they had to look out for their adopted American! First date with my future husband was at Goldsmith's Tavern. He told the barman he was waiting for his date. The barman replied "who's the lucky boy?" When they saw that it was me he was waiting for, they bought him a drink! I loved the cabaret in the back! In '88 , I went back to my hometown of Seattle. My hub followed after. I missed the those clubs/pubs so much... there was nothing like it in Seattle! A few years later, we went back to the Harp Club, but by then, the music was cheesy and it wasn't the same but I have to say it was some of the best times ever.. many great memories!