First the Stables market now the Ballroom which only survived in 2005 by the skin of its teeth:
One of Camden Town’s most famous music venues looks set to face a new threat of demolition after fighting off the bulldozers two years ago, writes Kate Fuller
CAMDEN Council agreed a controversial planning brief at the start of October that clears the way for the heart to be ripped out of Camden Town.
Councillors ignored 87 letters of objection and a 400-signature petition. They agreed a new policy that means London Underground have a green light to come up with plans to demolish all the buildings in the triangle behind Camden Town Tube station. Buck Street Market and the Electric Ballroom would become history.
If the previous plans they put forward in 2005 are anything to go by, London Underground’s vision for the future of Camden Town is an anonymous glass shopping mall full of high street chain stores that could easily be in Basildon or Croydon as in Camden.
No one denies that the Tube station is crowded and could be improved, but it’s the potential flattening of an entire section of the centre of Camden Town that shows London Underground – and the current leadership of Camden Council – just don’t understand what makes Camden a special, indeed unique, place.
London Underground doesn’t seem to grasp that the reason why Camden Town Tube station is so busy is because of what is above the ground here: markets and music venues.
The last time they tried to do this, in 2005, they were seen off. I thought I could get on with what I do best and love doing: running a popular, successful music venue with a great history and heritage. Little did I realise that, like Groundhog Day, I’d have to fight the same battle to save the Ballroom all over again.
We are determined to fight on to save the Electric Ballroom.
I recognise the need to improve the Tube station to ease congestion, but London Underground’s ideas for the site would change the nature of the heart of Camden Town and actually reduce the number of people coming to the area. It would turn the centre of Camden Town into a building site – a ground zero – for years.
This would be a nightmare for residents and businesses.
Camden Town doesn’t need a bland, arcade-style shopping mall above its Tube station. It has a unique character that needs to be defended.
My family has run the Electric Ballroom since the 1930s. My dad Bill Fuller took over the Ballroom, then known as the Buffalo club, in a run-down state and transformed it.
Eventually, he had a chain of Ballrooms covering England, America and Ireland. His venues became renowned all over the world as places for young Irish couples to meet and fall in love.
Over the past 65 years the ballroom has come to epitomise all that is Camden Town. As well as our long association with London’s Irish music scene, we have a reputation for hosting top musical talent such as Paul McCartney, The Killers, Oasis, U2, The Clash, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Public Enemy and many more.
We have just refurbished the Ballroom, investing a large sum of money in upgrading the venue. We do not want our premises demolished and our business frogmarched out of the heart of Camden Town to make way for a shopping mall.
We are particularly disappointed at the way in which Liberal Democrat councillors fought the 2006 borough elections in Camden Town and Primrose Hill ward, using leaflets that implied they opposed the demolition – now that they are running Camden they seem to have backtracked.
I have written to Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who opposed the 2005 demolition proposal, appealing for his support in fighting the new proposals.
I would urge local residents and everyone who loves the music scene in Camden Town to contact their councillors and put pressure on them to reverse this crazy policy.
In the meantime – despite the axe hanging over us – we are getting on with running and improving the Ballroom. These proposals could take years to come about. We have defeated them once and we can defeat them again.
The best way the music-loving public can show they want us to stay in business at the heart of Camden Town is to carry on coming to gigs here.
I have visited the Electric Ballroom on many occasions over many years and seen some great gigs at one of the best medium-sized venues in London.