Friday, November 01, 2013

How Does it Feel to be Loved? - 10 years at Canterbury Arms

Earlier in the week I had a drink in The Canterbury Arms in Brixton, waiting to pick up other half and daughter from Warpaint at the Academy. The pub is under threat, with a planning application submitted to demolish it and replace it with a block of flats. Lambeth's planning site suggests a target date for a decision of 31 October, but it's not on the agenda for their planning committee next week so looks like a decision will be delayed until December at the earliest.

As Brixton Blog highlights, this would not only be the death of another pub but the loss of the family home for the Fitzgeralds who have been running the place for 20 years. The front bar very much has that old London Irish pub feel, with lots of sports memorabilia (including a Streatham Redskins shirt). I lived in Brixton for ten years from late 1980s, and at that time Irish people were a major force in the local nightlife - there was also the Railway Hotel/Brady's on Atlantic Road and the late Pat Burke, the legendary landlady of the Prince Albert in Coldharbour Lane.  When I first started coming to New Cross in those days it was to another Irish establishment, The Harp Club - now the Venue.

Canterbury Arms, November 2003 on the first night there of 'How Does it Feel to be Loved?'
I have had many a happy night at the Canterbury Arms, in particular at the great indie pop and soul night, How Does it Feel to be Loved? As it happens, at this moment when the future of the pub hangs in the balance the club is celebrating its tenth birthday tonight (Friday 1 November). And not only that all this takes place in the same week that the man who (unknowingly) gave the club its name died. As Ian from HDIF writes:

'You all the know the story by now, I'm sure. How I was sitting in the back of a car driving from Glasgow to Edinburgh, listening to a mixtape made by a friend of a friend of my girlfriend, and how when Lou Reed sang "How does it feel to be loved?" towards the end of "Beginning To See The Light", the idea for HDIF popped into my head, pretty much fully formed. I'd play indie pop and soul, and the night would be called How Does It Feel To Be Loved? - because that's what Lou Reed told me it would be called.

Over the last eleven years, the name How Does It Feel To Be Loved? has kept the club and myself on the straight and narrow. It's a ridiculous name for a dance party really - it's hard to say, it's too long, it's pretentious, and the question mark at the end has caused all sorts of confusion in the listings. And what does it mean anyway? Is it gooey and romantic or bleak and depressive? And, honestly, what kind of person calls their club night something like that - you'd have to be the most precious, over-sensitive, needy, melodramatic, indie daydreamer to think it was somehow alright. It was the most wrong name for a club night ever - and yet that's what it had to be called. Lou Reed had told me so.

Once I'd stuck to that first wrong decision, all the other wrong decisions were easy. Mixing up the indie pop and soul so that the night jumped around all over the place. Starting up a branch of the club in south London when all the indie kids lived north of the river. Having a random, over-ambitious idea - like playing all of the 1986 Festive Fifty in order over the course of one night - and just going with it, even if I wasn't sure if it was really going to work. The name has been a constant reminder to do the wrong thing, to play all the wrong songs in all the wrong order. Because the first time I had a wrong idea, it all seemed to work out alright. And even if it didn't work, failing would be better than playing it safe.

Ten years ago, we started up HDIF at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton, after a year or so of packing out the Buffalo Bar. We've been dancing to indie pop and northern soul in that pub backroom on the first Friday of the month ever since. We've seen the Actionettes shaking their tail feathers. We've sung along with Kevin Rowland. We've walked "The Hardest Walk" with William Reid and Kevin Shields in the room. We hosted specials for Love and Jonathan Richman and Dexys and Orange Juice, and danced to "David's Last Summer" in a heatwave. We played the 1986 Festive Fifty in order to mark the passing of John Peel. And we sang "Beginning To See The Light" and "What Goes On" and "Sweet Jane" and "Rock'N'Roll", over and over and over and over, never once deciding we'd had enough, never once losing the faith.

Now Lou's gone. On Thursday, Lambeth council decides whether to grant permission to demolish the Canterbury Arms. It won't be too long before everything I've just written will be a faint memory.

It seems properly wrong to say "Hey, come along for one last dance...", so let me please ask just this. If you've ever spent a happy night dancing in our company in the Canterbury Arms, it would be wonderful if you could raise a glass on Friday night. For the last ten years. For Lou Reed's genius. For life-saving rock'n'roll...
Dancing at How Does it Feel... October 2013
Have we really spent ten whole years dancing to indiepop and northern soul in the backroom of the Canterbury Arms? You bet we have! On November 7th, 2003, we asked Amelia Fletcher of Tender Trap and Talulah Gosh fame (who just happened to live opposite the Canterbury at the time), if she'd like to be our guest DJ at a try out of HDIF in a brand new venue, and we haven't looked back since. Amelia became our unofficial guest DJ in residence at the Brixton HDIF, appearing more times than any other guest DJ, and so who else could we ask to DJ at our 10th anniversary party than Amelia?'

How Does It Feel To Be Loved? - Friday November 1st at the Canterbury Arms, Canterbury Crescent, Brixton, SW9 7QD, 9pm-2.30am. £4 for members, £6 for non members. Membership is free from Advance tickets -

1 comment:

Plastic Christmas said...

Always good to hear Pat from Albert still remembered and Bradys (especially when the Sexed Up Lambeth Boys were playing) was the place to be in the mid 1990s.