Sunday, December 31, 2006

Irish Dance Halls in London

My friend Myk had a Christmas leftovers party last night where people brought along unwanted presents and put them into a lucky dip. As a result I came away with a book I've been meaning to read since it came out, Joe Boyd's 'White Bicycles: making music in the 1960s' (Serpents Tail, 2005). Its a good read, covering his adventures in the US and British blues, jazz and folk scenes as a producer of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan.

Boyd was also one of the people behind the legendary UFO psychedelic club in Tottenham Court Road (1966-7) with the early Pink Floyd as the house band. One thing I hadn't realized before was that UFO was held in an Irish dance hall called the Blarney Club. This got me thinking about the untold influence of Irish dance halls on wider popular culture in London, as large places outside of the main music industry circuits and therefore available for people to use for more marginal and emerging musics.

In New Cross, the Venue was previously The Harp Club, and even before it changed names was being used for gigs and indie clubs. In Camden, The Electic Ballroom also started out as an Irish dance hall, whilst the Kilburn National has hosted The Pixies, Nirvana, The Smiths and The Sex Pistols (I saw The Wedding Present there once).

So endeth the final Transpontine post of 2006.


Anonymous said...

Hi Neil
Maybe a bit late for a comment here, but I've been slow on web stuff this year... Great lost feature of the old Harp club was the full height of the building staircase mural they had there. It welcomed you via the side door all the way up to the top floors. Where Alternative TV and The Three Johns played without a P.A. on the dancefloor amongst us earnest indie fans in the mid 80s. Now covered by the Venue's rock space obligatory black paint, I hope you got to see it. The Town and Country (now Forum) in Kentish Town had similar paintwork, but not as hugely realised.
take care, Clive My Eyes

Transpontine said...

Well they've cleared the black paint off the outside of the building, maybe we could do the same inside and uncover this masterpiece. Anyone remember what was on the mural?

Anonymous said...

Each wall had a different scene of Ireland, hand painted by an artist copying postcards.
My father had the Harp for 25 years.

Brendan Duggan

Transpontine said...

Brendan, do you have any old photos of the Harp Club, or other memorabilia (programmes, tickets etc.)? Would love to feature some more about it on this site.