Interesting feature from BBC Radio 4 talks about small venues and what their apparent decline means
Of all places, this bit of news came from my mum – although in fairness, it’s from Radio 4, and my mum is retired and so isn’t forced to listen to whatever crap is normally on the radio if she doesn’t want to.
In a program aired yesterday, charmingly titled I’ve Played In Every Toilet, reporter and veteran gig-goer John Harris visits a number of Britain’s defunct or struggling ‘toilet venues’ – so called because they’re about the size of a large public convenience – in order to ascertain why so many are in decline, and what this means for the current music scene, from bottom to top.
He starts at now-closed The Camden Falcon, which wasn’t too far from where I live now, and visits others including actual former toilet The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, which only survives by being not-for-profit, Hull’s Adelphi Club, and one I didn’t know had already closed: the famous TJ’s in Newport, where Kurt Cobain famously proposed to Courtney Love, and which shut after its dedicated owner died in 2010 (although there’s a nice little interview with the old owner’s daughter that has a positive ending).
John’s seen and reviewed a lot of bands in venues of this ilk – which cater to 100-200 people max – so he’s well placed to talk about these places and talk to the people still involved and struggling. He’s seen a lot of now-legendary bands like Pulp, Green Day and Radiohead in these venues, and talks a lot about their significance in giving young artists the chance to learn their craft, and be shit. Prime example: when Lana del Ray was thrust straight into The Shepherd’s Bush Empire without live experience and was panned by critics.
There are still plenty of these venues around – we went to one such tiny venue at The Black Heart in Camden this time last week – but if the places really are in decline, it’s a sad part of history being lost. Then again, there are small rooms in pubs and village halls everywhere, and people will always want to play music, so they’ll always find places to play. Doom and gloom? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a nice way to spend 30 minutes though, this.
Catch a listen here, and let us know what you think below!